By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Genting’s partnership with the Bimini Bay Resort’s developers appears to have created a revival opportunity for the Hotel Corporation, whose subsidiary will be operating the project’s transportation and water sports facilities.
Unveiling the new Genting/Resorts World casino and Miami-Bimini ferry service on Friday, Prime Minister Perry Christie described the arrangement between the developers and Hotel Corporation as another private-public partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Describing ground and marine transportation, and water sports activities, as areas normally reserved for exclusive Bahamian ownership, Mr Christie said the agreement would “extend economic opportunities to a greater number of Bahamians”.
Describing how the partnership would work, the Prime Minister said the Hotel Corporation had formed a wholly-owned affiliate, Bahamas Hotel Corporation Tourism Services (Bimini) Ltd.
This, he added, would “operate Resorts World Bimini’s transportation and water sports activities, but not to the exclusion of existing public transportation franchise holders.
“The people of Bimini will be offered shares in this company, which will operate according to the standards of equipment and service required by
Resorts World,” Mr Christie said.
“Arrangements are being concluded under which the developer will meet costs of equipment and transfer ownership to Bahamas Hotel Corporation Tourism Services (Bimini). The costs will be recovered in an agreed schedule of repayments.”
The Hotel Corporation’s involvement in such a deal appears to mark a major policy shift between governments.
The former Ingraham administration had been moving to wind it up, and transform it into a Tourism Development Corporation.
Apart from renegotiating the Mayaguana Heads of Agreement with the I-Group, and taking the Hotel Corporation out of equity ownership in the project, the previous government had also been seeking to sell its last remaining hotel asset - the Lighthouse Club in Andros - plus 2,000-3,000 acres it owned in Eleuthera.
However, the Bimini arrangement - as outlined by the Prime Minister - brings the Hotel Corporation firmly back into the tourism business as an owner/operator.
With no details divulged on how shares in the company are to be made available to Biminites, Mr Christie’s comments are also likely to raise questions over whether local transport/water sports providers may be ‘cut out of the action’ at Bimini Bay.
Another issue is why the Hotel Corporation needed to become involved in such a fashion, and why the transportation/water sports contracts could not have been put out to bid among the Bahamian private sector.
Meanwhile, Mr Christie said Genting had provided the Government “with a very interesting and appealing energy and water proposal, which could
considerably reduce costs of electricity and water, improve efficiencies and relieve the Government of capital debt burdens”.
And the Malaysian conglomerate was also assisting the Government in finding a “strategic airline partner” to provide expanded, efficient airlift into the Bahamas.
Suggesting that 400 jobs, plus associated Bahamian entrepreneurial opportunities, were being created at Bimini Bay this year, Mr Christie acknowledged that the island’s workforce could not meet this demand itself. As a result, employees were also being hired from New Providence and Grand Bahama.
The Prime Minister added that Genting had invested $95 million in acquiring and developing its Bimini-Miami ferry service, via a 3,000-capacity passenger vessel. Another $10 million is being invested in the construction of an offshore docking facility, which has drawn the ire of environmentalists.
Bimini Bay, Mr Christie said, now covered 750 acres and included 480 residences, most of which were in the hotel pool.