Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest speaks in Parliament.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest yesterday described the signing of a letter of intent (LOI) between owners of the Grand Lucayan hotel strip in Grand Bahama and the Toronto-based Wynn Group a “significant move” for the island’s economy - while the Memories/Sunwing combination is top of the government’s list of potential Wynn partners, Tribune Business was told.
Sources close to the developments revealed that the Heads of agreement will be “conditioned” upon Wynn hiring recognised resort brands and operators.
These contacts, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was vital for these brands to have the necessary links and clout to attract sufficient airlift to Grand Bahama.
Mr Turnquest, meanwhile, said not only does the LOI bode well for jobs in Grand Bahama’s construction industry, but it will provide a boost for employment in hospitality once the deal is formalised.
“We have suffered since the hurricane with a tremendous number of job losses,” the East Grand Bahama MP said yesterday. “So this announcement and getting the renovations started means immediate jobs in the construction sectors and in a few months jobs in the hospitality sector.
“There have been a number of restaurants that also suffered. So this all spells good news for the Grand Bahama economy and so we are really excited to get this started.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that a LOI was signed.
In a statement, Dr Minnis said he hoped this step would lead to the full renovation and opening of the Our Lucayan strip in early 2018.
He also said the government received a mandate from the Bahamian people “to restore economic health and vitality to the economy of Grand Bahama.”
He added: “Over the past several months we have made positive steps to improve Grand Bahama’s economy. However, the island’s recovery will not be complete until the full opening and development of the Our Lucayan strip properties.
“While this process has taken longer than the government would have liked, significant progress has been made. I am therefore pleased to inform Grand Bahamians and the nation that today (Friday) my office has been informed that the owners of the hotel strip have signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Paul Wynn. This is a very important formal step toward the completion of the sale.
“The government will now enter the approval stage and enter formal discussions with Paul Wynn on a heads of agreement, which will detail the future development of the hotel strip. We expect this process to be completed within the next month to two months.
“The government is very hopeful that this important formal step will lead to the full renovation, opening and redevelopment of the entire strip in early part of 2018, helping to bring much needed economic growth and jobs to Grand Bahama, which will also help to boost the national economy.”
The Grand Lucayan closed last October after Hurricane Matthew and deprived Grand Bahama of 59 per cent of its room inventory and at least 1,000 jobs.
Dr Minnis, in a national address earlier this year, said renovations at the Grand Lucayan would likely start in August - a deadline now long past.
The Minnis administration had also previously announced it would part-nationalise the hotel by taking a temporary equity stake in its acquisition, in an effort to revive Grand Bahama.
While talks for this process took place, it did not materialise.