GBCC president laments decline of Grand Bahama

PASTOR ROBERT LOCKHART

A leading Minister of the Gospel in Grand Bahama has indicated that the stability of Grand Bahama is at great risk.

In a recent interview with this daily, actually prior to the announcement of the Wynn Group’s decision not to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort from the present owner Hutchinson Whampoa Limited, Grand Bahama Christian Council President Pastor Robert Lockhart, expressed that he is concerned for Grand Bahama and pointed out that the island has been in a state of recession for nearly 15 years.

Last week, Canadian real estate developer Paul Wynn, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Wynn Group informed the media, that he no longer was interested in purchasing the hotel resort, with a $65 million price tag, noting that the high costs of operating and maintaining the 90,000-plus square foot, 740-room mega resort, were underlying factors for opting out of the deal.
Prior to the announcement, Lockhart was questioned whether he had any recommendations and/or suggestions for the present Government of the Bahamas, in hopes of returning Grand Bahama to the vibrant island it was was.

“What I would like to see is a coming together of the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Bahamas Government; a partnership that puts together an economic blueprint for moving the island forward; and identifying visible changes on the island of Grand Bahama, and in Freeport in particular. Both the GBPA and the Government should put a plan in place that would move Freeport forward in a way that is sustainable,” said Lockhart.

The GBCC President is hopeful that such a blueprint would be concrete, one with tangible benefits to both the island as well as to the residents.

“That is what I would like to see. To me, it seems as if the Government, and the GBPA are working in their own corners.

“I also think there needs to be some brainstorming; a think tank of sorts, with a groups of persons, some from the Port as well as some from the Government, The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, the church, and the business community, to come together, and talk about where Grand Bahama is now, how it got here, the model that we have now, and perhaps the model that we need to have for the future,” opined Lockhart.

He said that the model that “we have now perhaps, should be adjusted, for the city of Freeport, as it stands for the dynamics of the city that exists today. The model that we are using for Freeport is a unique model that does not exist any where else in The Bahamas, and probably in the world.

“We can then see what needs to be reshaped, restructured and reorganized, to move us forward. I believe the island has the capacity to succeed, and to do well.

“We have everything in place but I think that there are some things in our setup, in our system, that need to be adjusted,” noted Lockhart.

He holds that position that if a collaborative effort is made by members of the various institutions to strategize a tangible plan for the island moving forward, Grand Bahama would return to the glory days of the past.

“Numerous visitors come to Grand Bahama, and they think that Grand Bahama is the best-kept secret in The Bahamas. It is a modernized island, it is peaceful, and it has great possibilities.

“Perhaps a significant push for the island would be for already-existing, well-established hotel chains in the capital to explore the prospect of establishing similar resorts, on a smaller scale, here on the island, however, with all of the amenities that they boast of in the capital.

“I believe that the Princess hotel was proof that one or two major developments in Grand Bahama, would be able to carry this island. What I would have considered, as a thought, would be to speak to the Atlantis team of people, the Baha Mar team of people, and say to them: ‘We do not need you to do what you did in Nassau, but, if you would consider an extension of yourself, in Grand Bahama, perhaps a smaller version, maybe one in East End, West End or centrally located, persons could then decide whether they want to visit their larger resorts in New Providence, or come to a smaller version of them, here on the island of Grand Bahama.’

“Those groups there know how to run hotels and how to make them succeed. That is what we need here on Grand Bahama. I feel that Grand Bahama, could be a spinoff from what is happening in New providence,” opined the GBCC President.

He is convinced that there is the potential for regrowth in Grand Bahama.

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