The government is working assiduously to revamp the tourism product, particularly in Grand Bahama, said Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Sen. Kwasi Thompson.
Noting that the government remains in continuous discussions to have the Grand Lucayan property reopened in short order, he maintained that the property, which is the largest hotel on the island, will foster a much needed economic boost for the island.
“As you know, one of the things that we have been very focused on is trying to increase the tourism product that we have on Grand Bahama.
“We have also been continuing negotiations for the Grand Lucayan; this is a significant project for Grand Bahama and it really is the signature project for Grand Bahama,” said Sen. Thompson.
He added that significant progress has been made, even though the government “genuinely” had hoped that this would have been completed. “We have made progress on the deal. As we indicated, it is not just about purchasing a hotel, but it is really about creating a new and unique destination for Grand Bahama.
“For too long all we have been focused on is just bringing in a new hotel, believing that that will assist. We need to ensure that we have a destination and one that is unique from the rest of The Bahamas and that is what we have been focused on,” noted Thompson.
He said that a number of issues must be ironed out prior to the resort’s reopening, which the government is in the process of resolving.
“There are a number of issues that, in the process, were being resolved, which is the issue of employment and how many employees, how many Bahamian employees are going to be there, the entertainment, the concessions that might be granted, the subsidies that might be granted and the name brand that will be brought here.
“There were a number of issues that needed to be worked out. Again, we believe that we are in the final stages of that negotiation process and we believe shortly, we should have a signed deal and the renovations, we are hopeful, to begin shortly.
“Rest assured we are committed; all of the Members of Parliament (MPs) are committed to ensuring that that project moves forward and ensuring that we have significant employment levels at that project.”
Sen. Thompson outlined other aspects of the tourism sector that have made progress in the Free National Movement’s (FNM) first year in office.
“We were very pleased that we were able to negotiate a deal with Bahamas Paradise Cruises for the return of the Grand Celebration, but also for the additional vessel, the Grand Classica.
“The Grand Classica was commissioned and has started their regular trips here to Grand Bahama, which means that there is a vessel that comes in every day to this island.
“We have seen the significant increase of passengers that have been coming and that will also filter through to the straw vendors. We are working hard so that it will also filter into the taxi drivers and we are going to be speaking, very shortly, with the press about an arrangement that has been agreed with the taxi drivers, the Grand Celebration and Bahamas Paradise Cruises.”
In terms of expected airlift to the island Thompson further informed, “We are also pleased that the government has arrived at an agreement with Sunwing, to provide additional airlift for Grand Bahama. This month we will see (provided from Vacation Express) additional flights coming from Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Newark, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Dallas.
“The Ministry of Tourism estimates that that will provide more than 16,000 additional air passengers to come to Grand Bahama. Those are persons that will stay in your hotels, they will eat in your restaurants and they will drive in your taxis, and will spend more monies than just the regular day passengers that come on the cruise ships.
“We have been very busy. The government has along the tourism line as well, approved in principle the Grand Palm Beach Acquisitions Company, a major $2.8 billion investment for West End at the former Ginn Project.
He concluded that The Bahamas Government is presently in negotiations with the new owners, for a Heads of Agreement (HOA), on that particular investment.