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Sunwing's 'Madness' Airlift Contract Doesn't Deliver

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

MINISTER of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson has assured the government is addressing the question of airlift for Grand Bahama, after airline Sunwing announced plans to scrap its summer airlift initiative.

He also said the government's discussions with all potential purchasers of the Grand Lucayan includes airlift support.

Mr Thompson, pictured, said that the demands made by Sunwing to provide airlift were "unreasonable and uncompromising".

On Friday, Tribune Business reported that Grand Bahama's struggling tourism industry was forced to confront another "significant loss" of 30,000 annual visitors after Sunwing pulled the plug on its summer airlift initiative.

It was further reported that Sunwing, whose Memories resort affiliate exited Grand Bahama in January 2017, suggested its airlift withdrawal would take the island's stopover tourism product "backwards to its lowest levels in decades" and that "many of our hotel partners will be closing for some or all of the summer months and reducing staff dramatically."

In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Thompson said: "Sunwing's predictions should also be rejected as they are well aware that any deal to purchase the hotel includes an airlift component which would successfully replace Sunwing."

"We would not sell the hotel without adequate airlift and no one would buy it unless we agreed airlift plan," he added.

Mr Thompson indicated that the Ministry of Tourism is executing its marketing strategy and is using Bahamasair to create packages for the hotel.

Additionally, he noted that Bahamas Paradise cruises is also working on a package for the hotel.

"Grand Bahamians can rest assured that the Minnis administration will continue to not just talk about fixing Grand Bahama but, as we demonstrated with the purchase of the hotel, we will deliver for Grand Bahama," Mr Thompson said.

He also said Sunwing proposals to operate the Grand Lucayan and provide airlift to Grand Bahama was rejected by the government.

"No reasonable government would agree to such terms," he said.

Mr Thompson said that since 2013, Sunwing operated the Memories resort at the Grand Lucayan and provided airlift for their resort, but the agreement came to an end after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

He explained that Sunwing entered discussions with this government in May 2017 to operate the hotel Grand Lucayan and to provide airlift support. The discussions were a part of the overall Paul Wynn deal, he said.

"The prime minister in great detail stated why the Wynn deal was rejected. He also stated that our discussions with Sunwing came to an end because of unreasonable demands which the government could not agree," the minister recalled.

He said the government refused to accept Sunwing's "unreasonable and uncompromising demand" of a $4m payment from government every year for a fixed seven-year period to provide airlift for four months.

"The government also refused to agree Sunwing's demand to increase the $4m payment by ten percent every year. This could amount to a cost of $1m for one month and the numbers could possibly mean the government was in essence paying for the cost of every ticket," Mr Thompson said.

He also said Sunwing had also refused to agree to certain protections for Bahamians.

The tour operator, he said, refused to ensure during the construction phase that a minimum of 400 Bahamians would be employed with a ratio of 85 percent Bahamian and 15 percent non-Bahamian.

"We have more than enough qualified contractors in Grand Bahama to fill their need," he said.

Another issue, he said, was Sunwing's refusal to ensure that during operations there would be a minimum ratio of 90 percent Bahamian and 10 percent non-Bahamian.

Mr Thompson stressed that there are more than enough qualified Bahamians to successfully operate and manage a hotel.

"The government would not agree to Sunwing's demand to exempt them from any local advertising requirement or payment of work permit fees. The government could not compromise on this important point which informs locals on what jobs are available before it can be offered to non-Bahamians," he said.

He said Sunwing also refused to agree to employ Bahamian tennis and golf professionals if they were available.

The government recently purchased the Grand Lucayan resort, and two weeks ago Mr Thompson revealed the Minnis administration is receiving significant proposals from prospective buyers for the resort. He also stated that they are looking for Bahamasair to provide airlift for the hotel.

Comments

Naughtydread 7 months, 1 week ago

Why would tourist want to go to Freeport to begin with? Can we just take the L for Freeport and spend our time and resources on things of greater value.

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bogart 7 months, 1 week ago

When the airplsne people can play wid ya head in wanting to gets you to payfor the cost of the ticket for the tourist to travel to the hotel..... shouldnt speculate what dey mussey think of yinna....BUT thank goodness somebody pick up what going on.....especially coming fron getting goosied in Nassau baseballstadium costing triple then double an aint alinged ups...an plenty other massie cost overruns projects massive incompetance....plemty govt entities propped up....now coming to light...half a hill in Eleuthra levelled...

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ThisIsOurs 7 months, 1 week ago

Thank Gid someone picked up on the details??? This wasn't ticket science. From the minute Sunsing announced they were pulling out everybody knew what the deal was. They'd gotten word that there's a desperate PM down in the ?Bahamas who'll pay anything to save Freeport and his crumbling political run

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ThisIsOurs 7 months, 1 week ago

Listen were not surprised that everyone is trying to hold you over the barrel. What we were surprised at is when you announced how desperate you were to buy the overpriced hotel and to take a loss to sell it. I don't blame Sunwing fur trying to goosey you. That's their job.

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Economist 7 months, 1 week ago

"He also stated that they are looking for Bahamasair to provide airlift for the hotel."

Why would anyone want to use "Bahamasair the Worlds Most Unsuccessful Airline"

Think about it. How many airlines can boast that they have lost money for 45 years straight?

They should recommend Bahamasair for the Guinness Book of Records as the longest money losing airline.

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sealice 7 months, 1 week ago

The island and it's economy is lost IDK what these sunwing people think they have been doing but memories is shut down so it can't have been any good at all?

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DillyTree 7 months, 1 week ago

When we, the Bahamian taxpayers, have to foot the airline ticket costs for people to come to the Bahamas, there's something very wrong with our government's negotiating skills.

And these same people, subsidised by you and me, arrive with suitcases of food because they can't afford to even eat in the local restaurants! The don't spend any money with us, so why do we need them?

Tell Sunwing to get lost. We don't need budget crap airlines with budget crap people.

Surely we can do better?

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