By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday that a team of officials remain ready and willing to execute the remaining portion of the government’s international marketing strategy for Baha Mar despite the uncertainty surrounding the project.
He said $6m remains of the government’s pledged $20m advertising assistance for Baha Mar.
However, the minister said the government’s marketing for the $3.5 billion project has been suspended for quite sometime.
“We were holding and waiting but we are prepared tomorrow to begin our marketing (if a resolution to negotiations comes),” Mr Wilchcombe said. “Of course we are continuing to monitor all that is said about the Bahamas and all that is said about Baha Mar wherever it is being said.
“We are continuing to move toward increasing our airlift. In fact we have many of the airlines on standby and aware of the fact that once we get word we can begin the marketing, but our team is well versed and able through the use of information technology get the information out there and be able to get the message to the world that we are open for business. So it is on hold right now but we are in the position of being ready to roll.”
Representatives from Baha Mar, China State Construction and the Import-Export Bank of China were said to still be in talks over the fate of the project in China yesterday.
The Tribune was told that there was a deadlock in the negotiations, with both sides unable to reach a deal. Still, Mr Wilchcombe said he remains hopeful that a resolution will soon be met.
“The negotiations are continuing. We are waiting for a report but we are hoping that the (hotel) brands (at the resort) will remain. Obviously the long delay has caused some concern for everyone inclusive of the brands but at the same time they have not lost faith.
“So we are very optimistic about it. Again these are very difficult situations that we are facing right now and we have to find ways to get around them and find a resolution but I am optimistic that one will soon be here.”
On Tuesday, negotiators ended a protracted second day of talks in China without a deal to push the project forward, Mr Wilchcombe said.
A government delegation headed by Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, was expected to return from China yesterday. The delegation acted as mediator in the discussions. Meanwhile, court documents have shown that the resort would drastically reduce its workforce to a “skeleton” crew of around 50 if an agreement cannot be secured soon.
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States last month. Negotiations with stakeholders resumed this week after the Supreme Court adjourned a hearing into whether this jurisdiction will ratify an order from a US bankruptcy court judge, giving Baha Mar access to $80m in debtor-in-possession filing.