By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
DESPITE a significant decline in hotel room capacity on Grand Bahama, a tourism executive has said there is no plan for a pullout by Sunwing Airlines, which is linked with the currently closed Memories Resort.
Betty Bethel, director of tourism in Grand Bahama, said that the Ministry of Tourism and Sunwing are, in fact, gearing up for the airline’s summer programme.
“To our knowledge there is no pullout by Sunwing,” she said yesterday when contacted about a reported pullout by the airline,
The 500-room Memories Beach Resort sustained significant damage from Hurricane Matthew in October and has not reopened. There are some 600 Bahamians employed with the resort.
Sunwing Travel Group, which operates the resort, had expected to reopen in mid-December, but that date was pushed further back.
Ms Bethel said that the ministry is preparing to move forward to promote the airline’s summer programme.
“They are ramping up for the summer programme right now. What might be happening is that they may have to move out some that has equipment sitting to some other location until they are back online,” she said.
“I heard had reports (of pull out) too last night and this morning and after following up it was confirmed there is no pull out. To our knowledge it is not happening and we are presently preparing to go into marketplace and promote those summer programmes via Vacation Express using the other hotels until Breakers Cay is open again,” she said.
When asked about the Grand Celebration cruise line, the tourism executive added that the vessel had left temporarily due to the lack of inventory on Grand Bahama following the hurricane.
She said the reopening of the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort made it possible for the ship to return.
“Viva has been able to fill the gap in inventory and the Grand Celebration will utilise all properties available until the Grand Lucayan, their preferred hotel partner, comes back on stream,” she said.
The Grand Lucayan’s Breaker’s Cay resort remains closed. Its smaller property, 200-room Lighthouse Pointe has reopened.
The Tribune contacted Veronica Clarke’s office for comments concerning the status of Breaker’s Cay and rumours about plans of reducing staff at the Grand Lucayan. Ms Clarke, the general manager of Grand Lucayan, was said to be busy in meetings and did not return a call up to press time.
With Memories and the Breaker’s Cay closed there are around 1,000 rooms out of Grand Bahama’s inventory.
The Treasure Bay Casino closed its doors on December 4, putting 150 Bahamians out of work.
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) issued a statement yesterday about the uncertainty that exists on the island, particularly for Bahamians at the Memories Resort.
“While Prime Minister Christie says he is doing an outstanding job for the Bahamian people, 600 more Bahamians are uncertain about their future and could soon join the already long unemployment line in Grand Bahama,” said Leslie Lightbourne, DNA candidate for Pineridge and the party’s spokesman on labour.
He stated that after 150 Bahamians were sent home following the closure of the casino operations at Treasure Bay, staff at Memories are worried they will be next.
“Employees have been told the property would reopen in May 2017 following Hurricane Matthew, but there is no indication of any work being done to ensure this happens. Workers have no idea if or when they will be paid. Where are the answers?
“What has this Christie administration done for Grand Bahama and its workers?”