Christie delivers NEW DAY FOR GRAND BAHAMIANS – Workers headed back to work as REEF DEAL is SIGNED

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400-room Reef Village into the five star Blue Diamond Resort starts construction –  Property to open before the end of the year – FORWARD!~!!!!!!

Prime Minister Perry Christie and Cabinet makes way to Parliament.

By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday confirmed the finalisation of a deal to renovate a major resort at Grand Bahama which is expected to create 1,000 permanent new jobs.

Mr Christie told parliamentarians that the agreement between the government, Hutchinson Wampoa and Sunwing Travel Group was signed to convert the 400-room Reef Village into the five star Blue Diamond Resort. The development, he expects, will revive that island’s struggling economy.

Around 250 to 300 construction workers also will be required when work begins in the coming weeks, officials have said.

And if all goes well, Mr Christie said the resort is expected to be completed and the 1000 persons hired by year’s end.

“This major initiative to revive the Grand Bahama tourism economy,” the Prime Minister said, “closed upon the earlier negotiation of a memorandum of understanding between the government and Hutchinson Wampoa – the owner of the Lucayan resort complex and Sunwing, the Canadian affliate of TUI, the world’s largest tour and travel company.

“In the coming weeks construction will get underway providing several hundred much needed jobs for contractors and it is anticipated that the construction and refurbishment would be completed for the opening of the Blue Diamond Resort later this year.

The benefits of the new hotel also will have a trickle down affect on other Grand Bahama resorts, Mr Christie said.

“As a part of this major initiative, Sunwing, when the new resort opens will operate several flights a week from Canada to Freeport and support airlift programmes from the United States to Freeport.

“These added flights and Sunwing tour packages will be beneficial to all participating Grand Bahama hotels and not only Sunwing’s Blue Diamond Resort.”

While sealing off the agreement has had several challenges, Michael Darville, Minister of Grand Bahama, believes the development is just what the island needs to jump-start its tourism economy.

“It’s a good day for Grand Bahama,” he said.

“We worked swiftly through the deal and finally the announcement is made. The residents of Grand Bahama have been waiting patiently for this proposed 1000 jobs and to start the necessary construction of the Reef Hotel.

“With an unemployment rate of about 18 per cent this is what Grand Bahama really needs…relief, jobs, jobs, jobs.

“(It) will be the catalyst that we are looking for and I believe it has a very potent factor for Grand Bahama to get the machinery running. Our tourism industry will definitely begin to move and I’m very excited about what is happening today.”

Just last month, official statistical data reported that Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate increased from 17.3 per cent to 18 per cent. The rise has been attributed to the government’s decision to cancel the 52-week job readiness and placement programme.