By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Hotel Corporation has now transitioned to the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), according to its Chairman, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine.
Mr McAlpine also revealed that a $1.5m settlement of insurance claim has been reached for damage to the Lighthouse Yacht Club and Marina related to Hurricane Matthew, and that workers had been paid severance packages.
Although the 20-room property had been closed since the storm in October 2016, he said government continued to pay employees weekly, and prior to closing, it was costing the government $500,000 a year in expenses and salaries.
Rev McAlpine, whose remarks came during his contribution to the Budget Presentation, said the government could no longer afford to spend half a million dollars and continue to pay people who were not working, and in some instances were employed elsewhere.
“The Board sought to stop the economic haemorrhaging,” he said. We were able to negotiate, more than our predecessors, by way of insurance claim for the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.”
“The former administration negotiated from 2016 and into 2017. This Board was able to negotiate and receive a $1.5M settlement. We did so in less than 90 days of assuming Office,” Rev McAlpine said.
The Board, he said, also paid out on January 4, 2018, severance packages to all employees in accordance with the Employment Act. The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union represented the workers.
Rev McAlpine said the money came from the Bahamas Hotel Corporation Funds, and not the Consolidated Funds of the Bahamas Treasury.
The Board chairman also reported that the Lighthouse Yacht Club and Marina will be sold for $1.5m following some five bids for the property.
In October 2017, the Board had invited the public to put a bid of sale in for the hotel. Five bids for the property were received, ranging from $800,000 to $1.550M, according to Rev McAlpine.
After conducting its due diligence, he said the board recommended to the Cabinet of The Bahamas who it felt would be able to develop the 20-room hotel located on 11 acres of land.
“I am happy to report that the Cabinet of The Bahamas has approved our recommendation and that the hotel known as the Lighthouse Yacht Club and Marina will be sold for $1.5M,” he reported in his contribution in the House.
“We, the Hotel Corp Board, got the insurance money of $1.5M, paid out the employees, stopped the half a million dollars haemorrhaging to the government, and will now receive by way of sale an additional $1.5M,” Rev McAlpine said.
The Board, he indicated, is also negotiating a $500,000, 26-year-old debt to the Bank of The Bahamas.
“We are in the process of liquidating,” he said, adding the loan will not be paid out of the Consolidated Funding of the treasury of The Bahamas, but from the Hotel Corporation’s earnings since the general election.
He also announced that the Board accepted an offer made for one of their properties out West for some $1 million, and also will be recommending the sale to Cabinet.
“So, in less than a year we have taken in $1.5M, paid off the non-working employees, saved the government a half of a million dollars, sold the property for $1.5M and we’re getting ready to sell another property for $1M,” Rev McAlpine said.
He noted that the Board would have potentially brought to the Hotel Corp by way of negotiation, strategy, administration and bureaucratic intuition $4M in less than a year and will liquidate a 26-year-old half a million-dollar loan at BOB.
With regards to the Board’s transition, Rev McAlpine said that after some 30 years, the Board’s primary objective is to position the Corporation to play a more meaningful role in the expansion of the economy has now come to fruition.
He said that the 1974 business model of the Hotel Corporation served its purpose in the past, but was not an effective tourism framework in today’s competitive regional environment.