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We’Re In The Hotel Business . . . For Now

A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tours the Grand Lucayan Resort led by hotel manager Veronica Clarke, right. 
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tours the Grand Lucayan Resort led by hotel manager Veronica Clarke, right.  Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By RASHAD ROLLE 

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE government has made a $10m down payment to acquire the Grand Lucayan resort at a price tag of $65m and expects to complete the purchase from Hutchinson Whampoa within the next 30 days, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis confirmed yesterday.

He spoke in Grand Bahama after touring the resort and the Port Lucaya Marketplace where he spoke to concerned residents struggling to deal with the Lucayan strip’s reduced economic activity following the resort’s closure in 2016.

He also toured the near-deserted International Bazaar shopping area which he views as a cautionary tale of how the closure of a major hotel harms surrounding businesses.

He did not give much details about the purchase or specify the government’s plans for the three-hotel property, saying he will make a comprehensive communication when Parliament resumes after its summer break next month.

However, he said once the government’s acquisition is complete, a concessions package will be available to prospective buyers of the hotel, the terms of which will be more favourable to Bahamian investors than foreign ones.

He said the government plans to keep the 196-room Lighthouse Pointe open, which reopened in November 2016, and is considering re-opening the 400-room Memories property.

The latter property would require some renovations prior to reopening. Dr Minnis said the government will assess the costs of reopening it before making a decision.

The government is not considering re-opening the 500-room Breaker’s Cay.

Noting there is demand for additional rooms at the Grand Lucayan, Dr Minnis said: “I’ve been informed there are a lot of group bookings individuals are trying to bring forth. However, because of the large size of the groupings and the number of rooms, only 196 presently, those groupings are being denied. There are groupings that require 200, 300 visitors that want to utilise the hotel services but we don’t have the capacity but soon we’ll have the capacity to have an even greater impact on the Lucayan strip.”

Asked if the government is seeking a private sector operator to manage the hotels, which some observers believe is essential, Dr Minnis demurred. He suggested such matters will be determined by a newly formed committee tasked with examining all matters related to the resort.

“What the government would like to do is get in and out as soon as possible,” he said. “At present we are establishing a committee, a committee comprising of professionals that is chaired by (Hotel Corporation Chairman) Michael Scott, which would look and plan the way forward. That would not be done by me or politicians, but a professional group that are involved in businesses.”

To the Minnis administration, the need to buy the hotel despite considerable criticism was made clear through the experiences of workers on the Lucayan strip who expressed frustration with the “horrible” state of their businesses.

One vendor who spoke to Dr Minnis complained of struggling to make $50 a day.

“A lot of people in the Bahamas saying that’s the wrong move but we wearing the shoes, the hard shoes,” she said. “We are the ones that got to pay the bill and now that he doing that it gives us a chance to make money and to put people back to work so I thank God for the sale.”

The Minnis administration has not said whether any investors have expressed interest in purchasing the resort from the government, but he said he has no “intention to run a hotel.”

“It is our intention to save the jobs of the Grand Bahamians who work at this hotel, approximately 400 individuals and you can see the impact and you would’ve heard the straw vendors spoke about it,” he said. “You had the closure of this hotel. You have on this Lucayan strip the straw market, taxi drivers, the tour drivers, other commerce, the supermarkets and other industries. You would’ve heard them say and we do believe similarly that should this hotel close you’d have a devastating economic impact on Grand Bahama and under no circumstance can a government sit idly by and allow such a thing to happen.”

In a nod to potential Bahamian investors, Dr Minnis said the government is prepared to offer a sweet deal.

“We,” he said, “would like to see the hotel purchased from the government by Bahamians and I think the opportunity and the time has come for Bahamians not only to be given the concessions that are laid out in Heads of Agreement given to foreign investors, but time has come when government takes its own step to get them in the hotel business. Examples are out there throughout all the Caribbean when you look at ‘Butch’ Stewart (owner of the Sandals resort chain) and Jamaica and we would like to create our own ‘Butch’ Stewart right here.”

Dr Minnis ended his commentary with a warning to parliamentarians not to seize on the purchase of the Grand Lucayan resort to award political supporters.

“We are in a holding mode,” he said. “We are holding the hotel to preserve and protect the economy of Grand Bahama. Once a sale is available, this hotel goes as soon as possible. I do not want my Cabinet colleagues come forth with their lists saying ‘these are my ten constituents I need to be hired, these are my 20,’ – it won’t happen so you heard it through the horse’s mouth, it won’t happen. Don’t bring the list. If the management accepts the list, that manager will be fired, so know this Kwasi, know this Pintard. But as the Memories open you could bring the list because we’ll need more staff but the list should be fair.”

Last week, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the government was forced to act to save the Grand Lucayan hotel properties because its owner Hutchison Whampoa had been threatening to shut down the property.

At the time, Mr D’Aguilar stressed the move was “the best of a bad choice” in an “emergency” situation.

Comments

joeblow 3 months ago

Yet another stupid move by this government that will cost the Bahamian taxpayer millions of dollars. All the gov't had to do was give concessions for small hotels and bed and breakfasts and market an ecotourist experience while increasing air lift to the island to help move the economy along. Instead they are sitting on a closed hotel having to maintain it hoping some else will buy it! Simply dumb!

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proudloudandfnm 3 months ago

This is the dumbest government ever. He did it to help the workers on the strip??? You're not opening it. How are you helping????

Moron..

We need a recall system. Minnis and his crew of amateurs have to go....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Minnis is not counting on foreign visitors to keep the Grand Lucayan afloat.....he's simply going to use our tax dollars to keep the doors of this beyond dead hotel open with millions of our tax dollars simply being redistributed to others, not to mention the exceptionally generous amounts that will get siphoned off through corrupt contactual arrangements of one kind or another with his cronies and major supporters of the FNM party. In summary, Minnis is doing the only thing he excels at, i.e. flushing our tax dollars and our country down the proverbial toilet. And whenever there's big money to be flushed down the toilet, just look at who's always standing immediately to the righthand side of Minnis egging him on to do the wrong thing. Minnis truly knows very little about real politics in our nation today. The powers that be are actually encouraging the dimwitted Doc to politically self-destruct. Yep, they want him 'One and Done', if not sooner, and he's happily obliging them. What a joke!

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The straw vendors have not made a dime with just Lighthouse Point being partially opened.

This moron is not doing a thing to help them.

Politicians love dumb people....

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hrysippus 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The government have now bought the LuCayan hotel, . . . .. The one Hutchinson-Whampao just could not sell, …… . . ..

Another hundred million needs to be found, . . . . .. .. To try to get this project even off the ground, .. . . . ..

The stupidity of this cabinet is hard to comprehend, . . . … A fiscal disaster the probable bad end .. . . . . ..

Cossetted cabinet ministers flying all over by first class , . . …. ….

Show that responsibility is a total farce.

I like Jimmy Carter who flies economy, . . . . . ….. An honest politician remaining hubris free, . . . . . …. Wouldn't it be good if we had politicians more like this. . . . .. … Instead of catching hell we could be living here in bliss. +

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TalRussell 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Ma Comrades, whilst the Imperial red shirts cabinet reached into the public purses's (borrowed monies) $65 million plus another $100 renovations and still the purchase from Hutchinson Whampoa of the Casino has been conveniently left off table.
Not a single red penny from the hurricane's$100 million settlement pocketed in insurance proceeds paid out to Hutchinson Whampoa - will benefit Freeporters moving forward. They happily tooks the $100 million and left the severely hurricane damaged properties as the were .... un repaired.
Why didn't Minnis and KP - not demand of the Port's ownership to loan them the $65 million interest free for 30 years?
What exactly was the Port's financial contribution the $65 million purchase..... guessing zero monies.... certainly whatever they talked does justify clarity to the PeoplePublic by Minnis and KP.

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Chucky 2 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree with most of the comments; but at the moment I can't get past the picture of our leaders. They look like bums!

Have they no pride? Do they not realize they should at least look presentable if not respectable.

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OldFort2012 2 months, 4 weeks ago

That $65m sale price broken down:

To Hutchinson Whampoa: $1. Which is $1 more than they thought they could get.

$64,999,999...ahem...stays at home.

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John 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Meanwhile retail stores are singing ‘the Blues ‘ about Back/to-School sales. Some are wondering if it will be last minute or if everyone has already shopped online and in Florida. Just ride past R. M. Bailey Park and see for yourself.

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 4 weeks ago

These rooms where da shanty town set ga move to.

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bogart 2 months, 4 weeks ago

In this project Dr. Minnis is mentioned, the Tourism Minister has been mentioned but astonishinglt the Minister of Finance seems to be missing...?...an in other injections of money he has been in the forefront....as a former GB Chamber of Commerce member, an MP and the Deputy PM he should be in the picture....... Other issues particularly the gateway to this massive injection of the peoples money..the Airport and Harbour being privately owned standing to benefit in fees that the peoples injection of money will bring to the private owners...the stimulation of the local economy...people paying fees...taxi drivers...etc..what is the Bahamian people going to benefit....and what are the private owners Port and Hutchinson...contributing....?.???apart from sitting back benefitting....??

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BahamaPundit 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Beginning to wonder if the actual cost of the hotel was more like 45 million and 20 million is going to a slush fund.

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DDK 2 months, 4 weeks ago

It seems criminal that the Hutchinson Whampoa people were allowed to collect millions in insurance money and just walk away without repairing the damage to the Hotel. I don't assume the Bahamas Government will conduct further business with them? With all the concessions the foreign investors always squeeze out of us, do they have no obligations to restore the property in a case like this, and if not, why not?

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BahamaPundit 2 months, 4 weeks ago

This whole deal seems criminal and absolutely ZERO transparency!!!

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ashley14 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Something has to be done, but I'm not sure this was the answer.

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John 2 months, 4 weeks ago

If the (PLP) Government did not rape and rob BoB sending the Billion dollar bank into bankruptcy, this would have been the perfect opportunity to bring together a contingency of businessmen and local Bahamian investors to partner with government to purchase and manage this hotel property. Eventually Bahamians must look for more than just employment in the tourism industry. They must take ownership.

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BahamasForBahamians 2 months, 4 weeks ago

the FNM can no longer pass the blame to the PLP. they are government now and said they had the plan.

obviously they dont..

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Porcupine 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Our community clinic in Mangrove Cay sits idle and in a state of destruction for a supposed lack of money. But, we can find millions to buy a dinosaur.....................................................

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ashley14 2 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree and I'm not sure the government will make the needed improvements, then manage the property well. Promoting the property will also be needed. There are too many people that have quit going to GB because it's just lonely feeling. It's beautiful, the people are great but there's nothing going on. It's just to quiet. Good live entertainment is a must. I hope they do it right but reputation doesn't reflect "hope and change." Yes, Obama's platform🌝

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ashley14 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Speaking of visiting. Could someone tell me when Junkanoo is in Nassau. I would like to come. I'll be in Nassau soon. I'm just drawn to the Bahamas. I left my heart there many years ago.

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TalRussell 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Ma Comrade Ashley14, I will do me damnedest best direct you full scheduling when our local house of assembly sits... Oh, and don't forget brungs ya Brownie camera cause sometimes we MP's does go all Britisher- dressing up in their morning monkey attires.

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ashley14 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Thanks! What is a Brownie camera?

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TalRussell 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Ma Comrade, you really don't wanna make me to get me 'Brownies' into action,....an even higher twilight cloud than anything any red shirts has reached. Thanks

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ashley14 2 months, 4 weeks ago

TalRussell actually I don't know what MP's are either. I'm not naïve because I don't understand your lingo. It couldn't be any worse than Mardi Gras, anything goes. I've been to it many times. I think along with the bazaar behavior the music, costumes and dress are very entertaining. Anyway thanks for your help. Oh yeah, what is MP's?

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BahamaLlama 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Truly terrifying in its stupidity - exactly what a politician does to avoid losing the election on that island.

  • The free market labels the hotel unwanted and unviable - the government buys it (FAIL).
  • If they sell it to a rich white person, they're going to be called sell-outs and colonisers (FAIL).
  • The money they're borrowing is less than 50% of what is needed just for the first year (FAIL).
  • It won't be ready until Winter 2019 (FAIL)
  • The money to "employ" people is the People's own money (FAIL).

Clearly, the gamble here is the stability of a government owner will entice a savvy buyer to get it quickly; early enough so they don't have to pay the rest. That's going to backfire, because any savvy buyer is going to wait until the Greater Fool (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater...">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater...), i.e. the government, has wasted all the time and money doing the renovations, and is desperate to sell at an even lower price.

This isn't the "least of evils". It's just flat-out ignorance of basic economics. Bahamian politicians are obsessed with thinking they can control free market forces by controlling access to the local economy, and the policies of the country's institutions. Markets don't work like that; they collapse with attempted interference and wither with protectionism.

The economy on GB is in pieces because of corruption and incompetence - not because of a single broken hotel. There is room on GB for 500 hotels, next to the world's largest economy and supply of tourists. The question is: why aren't they there?

If the FNM thinks it can use protectionism - yet again - to save a collapsing island economy - the Bahamian people are going to learn - again - why their politicians need to prove a qualification in Economics to run for office. Markets are like parachutes - they only function when they are open.

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