By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
KWASI Thompson, State Minister for Grand Bahama, confirmed that discussions for the sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort are continuing with relevant parties, amid public statements made by the Wynn Group –- the former prospective buyer.
Mr Thompson did not say much, indicating that officials do not want to “jeopardise the government’s position.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, he said: “The government is aware of the public statements attributed to Paul Wynn. Our position was articulated by the prime minister in his national address.
“We confirm and assure the people of Grand Bahama that our discussions with the relevant parties are continuing. We would not want to say more at this stage to jeopardise the government’s position. We remain determined to complete our discussions and see the (Grand Lucayan) hotel opened in the shortest time possible.”
A deal for the sale of the hotel property in Lucaya is critical to the survival of Grand Bahama’s economy, which has been struggling since last October when the three resort hotel property closed following significant hurricane damage.
About 1,000 Bahamian hotel and casino workers are unemployed, and many of the merchants at the nearby Port Lucaya Marketplace that relied on visitor traffic from the resort are experiencing financial challenges with paying rent and keeping their stores open.
The closure of hotels has resulted in the loss of 1,200 rooms, a 40 per cent decrease in room inventory on the island.
On Thursday, the Nassau Guardian reported that Paul Wynn, CEO of the Wynn Group of Canada, had pulled out of the deal to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort on the Lucaya Strip, and was seeking to get his refundable deposit back from Hutchison Whampoa, the owners.
Tribune Business has reported that the government is focused on curing the underlying structural problems that have undermined the resort and Grand Bahama’s wider tourism/hotel product, both to ensure it can rapidly “exit” its temporary ownership and ensure it “does not face another quagmire in five years.”
A strategy involves creating a destination product along the lines of an Atlantis and Baha Mar, combining hotel, retail, cruise, marina and other associated resort amenities and attractions into one.
Tribune Business has reported that government potential equity partners include the Port Lucaya Marketplace’s owner, Peter Hunt, and his fellow investors. Sunwing and its Memories hotel brand affiliate, which departed Freeport in February following a dispute with Cheung Kong (CK) Property Holdings, the Grand Lucayan’s owner, over Hurricane Matthew repairs have also been potentially lined up to return.
In late July, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed during a national address the government is negotiating to become temporary joint owners of the Grand Lucayan Resort in a bid to boost the hotel until it can sell off its equity. At the time, he said “all signs point to the beginning of renovations at the resort” sometime this month, with the facility “ready for business for the winter season.”