Prime Minister of The Bahamas Dr Hubert Minnis on Monday defended his Administration’s sale of the multimillion-dollar Grand Lucayan to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the ITM Group (Bahamas Ports International).
Speaking at the heads of agreement signing, Minnis explained that his Government wanted to ensure “we found the right buyer who shared our vision for the renewal of Grand Bahama”.
In addition, he said that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the ITM Group, “share our vision and decided to invest in the long-term future and sustainability of Grand Bahama.
“Our vision was the renewal and rebirth of Grand Bahama’s tourism sector and product as an essential element in the restoration of this island’s potential,” Minnis said.
He said further that the developer bought into his Government’s vision of reinventing the tourism product for land-based guests arriving by air and those arriving by cruise and ferry ships with a distinctive Bahamian flavour and characteristics.
“This US$250-million investment will go a long way in revitalising Grand Bahama with myriad economic and employment opportunities for more Grand Bahamians. After many false dawns, there is an exciting new horizon for our second-most populous island and economic centre,” he said.
Minnis recounted that when his Administration initiated the acquisition of the property, it took the “tough, and in some quarters, unpopular decision to temporarily purchase the property.
“This US$250-million investment will go a long way in revitalising Grand Bahama with myriad economic and employment opportunities for more Grand Bahamians. ”— Prime Minister of The Bahamas Dr Hubert Minnis
“We did so in order to save jobs. We did so to ensure the survival of a number of businesses dependent on tourism in general and the Grand Lucayan in particular. Given the economic situation in Grand Bahama, we could not in good conscience allow the full closure of the property.
“As we stated at the time, it was our intention to privatise the property as quickly as possible,” he told the signing ceremony, adding Grand Bahama is at the beginning of a new day.
The acquisition of the Grand Lucayan was even more critical in light of the passage of several hurricanes through The Bahamas in recent years, especially the destruction and devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.
The sale of the hotel will, as a result, create three thousand direct and indirect jobs.
“This investment will create additional employment opportunities for Bahamians in construction jobs as well as in operational positions at both the hotel property and the port property. The benefits to Grand Bahama include: capital investment, employment opportunities for Bahamian workers in the tourism and construction industries, increase commerce for local businesses in the Port Lucaya Market Place and beyond; taxi drivers and tour operations; and increased revenue to enable the Government to support infrastructural programmes, ” Minnis added.
There are also opportunities for small businesses and Bahamian entrepreneurs, the prime minister pointed out, including the producers of a wide variety of Bahamian products.
Minnis said, further, that with Grand Bahama’s proximity to the large Florida market, the investment will promote sustainable economic growth and development on the island that was battered by Hurricane Dorian last September.
“This investment will also expand the experience for cruise passengers to The Bahamas. As you are aware, a high number of cruise experiences are Bahamas only cruises, a strategic advantage for The Bahamas and good economics for cruise lines.
“Given the many millions of people who enjoy cruises and the size of the market, the new ports in Nassau and Grand Bahama will both enjoy increased numbers,” Minnis said, adding “as a result of this development it is anticipated that Grand Bahama will provide a better and more enjoyable overall guest experience to Freeport, Grand Bahama, and promote future traffic growth to the Grand Bahama”.