Freeport GB – PRIME Minister Perry Christie revealed on Friday night that a letter of intent for the sale and reopening of the Grand Lucayan Resort has been signed with a new purchaser, whose plans will significantly transform the hotel and the tourism product in Lucaya, Grand Bahama.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe will be leading a team to Canada on Sunday to negotiate a Heads of Agreement to facilitate “an early completion of the sale,” Mr Christie said.
“It is really a privilege for me to say I have some good news for you,” he told jubilant Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supporters at a rally in Freeport at the party’s headquarters on Beachway Drive.
“We have been working hard, and I want the FNM to hear this. Just as we never gave up on Baha Mar, just as we worked around the clock to get Baha Mar open, we have been working very hard on hotel development on this island,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Christie noted that the government is painfully aware of the impact that Hurricane Matthew has had in Grand Bahama, particularly regarding the extended closure of the Memories and Grand Lucayan hotels.
The island lost 40 per cent of its room inventory, its only casino and 1,100 jobs in the tourism industry following last October’s storm. The Hutchison Whampoa Group of Hong Kong, owners of the Grand Lucayan Resort, had also put the property up for sale over a year ago.
Prime Minister Christie said that he is very excited about the sale and the proposed plans by the new purchaser, who has not yet been revealed. “What I am about to say is what I come to Grand Bahama to announce tonight. It has to do with the sale and reopening of the Lucayan Hotel property.
“I have this afternoon been given permission to speak to this issue. On Sunday, the Minister of Tourism will fly to Toronto, leading a team to negotiate on what I am about to say. Yesterday, a letter of intent for the sale was signed for a new purchaser which provide for an early closure of the purchase of the (Grand Lucayan) hotel,” said Mr Christie.
According to the Prime Minister, the prospective new owner has plans not only to upgrade the property, but to also bring in recognised operators for the three hotels and casino, plus additional tour operators with connections from multiple North American cities.
The government, he said, is working with the new purchaser/developer for the creation of a “compelling and exciting destination experience which will completely transform and expand the product offering in Lucaya with lasting results, and not just a short term fix.”
Mr Christie noted that, when the PLP came into office five years ago, the Reef Village was closed and tourism was in the doldrums and the property was being heavily subsidised by the Free National Movement (FNM) administration.
“Within 12 months, my government started to turn things around with the refurbished Memories Resort and numerous airlifts from Canada in an arrangement with Sunwing. Unfortunately, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, the property has been closed for several months,” he said.
Mr Christie said “a lot of people are still waiting for changes to touch their lives” in Grand Bahama.
In addition to the hotel sale, Mr Christie also revealed that Carnival Cruise Lines has fully agreed with the terms of the Heads of Agreement for a $200 million cruise port in East Grand Bahama. He reported that Carnival and the Freeport Harbour Company are now in the final stages of settling the legal documentation.
“The economic benefits and entrepreneurial opportunities for East GB as well as Freeport from this project will be enormous,” Mr Christie said. The new port will take two years to build.
Mr Christie explained that this has been made possible after his administration negotiated an agreement for a waiver of exclusive rights that were granted to Hutchison to own and operate ports in