By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government yesterday said it was seeking "the best redevelopment deal" possible for the Grand Lucayan resort and associated amenities, promising it "will not rest" until this is achieved.
Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration was "painfully aware" of the devastating economic and social consequences resulting from the loss of more than 1,000 hotel rooms.
The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board yesterday said the island had lost 59 per cent of its hotel room inventory as a result of Memories' closure/pull-out, and the continued closure of the Grand Lucayan's Breaker's Cay property, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
And Port Lucaya Marketplace tenants are planning to march to draw attention to their plight, amid concerns that the majority "may not be able to survive another two months" following the loss of their customer base with the hotels' closure (see other article HERE).
Mr Thompson yesterday said the Government was doing "all it can" to get the resort properties open as rapidly as possible, adding that it had inherited the situation from the former Christie administration.
He confirmed that the Grand Lucayan's proposed sale to Canadian-based real estate developer, the Wynn Group, had not closed prior to the May 10 general election despite the 'Letter of Intent' that was much-touted by the former government.
While not providing details, Mr Thompson said the Government was in contact "almost on a daily basis" with the parties involved with the Grand Lucayan, presumably meaning Wynn and current owner, Hutchison Whampoa.
"The redevelopment and reopening of the Lucayan Strip is a major priority - not just for my office in Grand Bahama, but I believe it is a national priority," Mr Thompson told Tribune Business.
"It is vital that we bring back economic activity to that strip, including the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Grand Bahama needs this hotel to be open, and it needs our people to be employed without question."
He added: "The closure has had a major effect on our tourism product in Grand Bahama. We have a sense of urgency because we knew before we came to office that Grand Bahamians were suffering. They elected us for this reason.
"The Government is painfully aware of the situation. I live here and see the effects every day. It is what motivates us to work without ceasing to bring relief."
The Minnis administration has placed Grand Bahama and Freeport at the centre of its plans to revive the Bahamian economy, unveiling plans to target specific tourism niches, the film/TV industry and financial services as growth opportunities for the island.
However, these initiatives are all longer term, and there are signs that the new government's 'honeymoon period' may already be wearing off in Freeport unless it can rapidly resolve the Grand Lucayan's closure and associated problems.
"The Government is doing all it can to complete the redevelopment," Mr Thompson emphasised yesterday. "Although a sale was announced, the details of the sale and development were not completed prior to the election.
"It is important that the hotel strip is not just sold, but redeveloped and reopened for the benefit of the island. This is what this government is working diligently to ensure; that is, arriving at the best redevelopment deal."
The Senator added: "The Government is treating this matter with urgency while it proceeds through the usual processes prior to approval. We are communicating with those involved almost on a daily basis to ensure that the Government does all it can to redevelop and reopen the hotel strip in the shortest period of time.
"The Government is very aware of the plight of the Port Lucaya tenants. We must deal with the situation that was left in place and that is exactly what we are doing. The tenants should be assured that we were elected to bring relief, and will not rest until this is done."