Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government was locked in meetings yesterday seeking to bring a successful conclusion to negotiations with Hutchison Whampoa over the embattled Memories resort, with Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe telling The Tribune that based on those talks he believes there is room for a “successful outcome”.
This comes as hundreds of hotel workers will be made redundant after the hotel operator Sunwing Travel Group and landlord Hutchison Whampoa failed to reach an agreement over hurricane restoration at the beachfront resort in Lucaya, Grand Bahama.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said: “We are engaged in negotiations. The respective proposals are on the table. The government is intending to manage this issue to a successful conclusion.”
He confirmed that these negotiations are with Sunwing and Hutchison.
“We are awaiting the end of the Chinese New Year observation and return to the table next week,” Mr Wilchcombe told The Tribune.
“There are many factors and issues involved that require intense discussions. Both groups and others have expressed a commitment to the island which signals there is room (for) a successful outcome.”
Sunwing and the government had agreed to co-invest sums to restore the damaged Memories property for reopening last month; but in a statement on Wednesday, Sunwing reported that “the owner attempted to impose exorbitant conditions that were totally unacceptable to Sunwing.”
Sunwing said that it was required to vacate the Memories Resort premises on January 29, and is now making arrangements to pay out applicable redundancy pay for around 400 employees in the coming days.
Minister of Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville explained that the government has been in talks with the resort and its landlord Hutchison for a considerable period, adding that those discussions were ongoing. Dr Darville added that the government’s priority was to ensure that all employees are protected and that all obligations required in the resort’s exit clause are adhered to.
While giving a speech at the Progressive Liberal Party’s national convention last week, Dr Darville said the government had “significantly” reduced unemployment on the island since 2012. He also said the PLP had laid the foundation for an economic resurgence in Grand Bahama.
“Grand Bahama, the PLP is the only choice,” Dr Darville said last week. “It is the only party that has proven to possess the vision, the work ethic and the stability necessary to move Grand Bahama forward, onward together.”
The island is still reeling from the destruction Hurricane Matthew brought last October. Before the hurricane hit, Grand Bahama was already dealing with a sluggish economy.