By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The tourism minister yesterday declined to predict that the Grand Lucayan’s sale will close by year-end, but remains “optimistic” it will happen.
Dionisio D’Aguilar, speaking to reporters outside the Cabinet Office, said of the talks with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and ITM Group joint venture: “Negotiations always take twists and turns. I’m very positive. I’m very upbeat. I’m very optimistic.
“You know with negotiations you can’t put a finite date nor time on when they are going to be concluded; there are always asks and bids and negotiations. That’s just the nature of negotiations. While the press may want a hard and fast date to hold us to, it will happen when it happens and I am optimistic that it will.”
Refusing to go into details on the status of discussions, Mr D’Aguilar added: “When you are negotiating you don’t want to show your hand, and you don’t want to allow people to get into the particulars with it. Just rest assured we are negotiating the best possible deal for it.”
The government signed a letter of intent with Royal Caribbean/ITM Group’s Holistica joint venture for the purchase of the Grand Lucayan, and redevelopment of Freeport Harbour, in March. With an initial investment of $195m, which includes $65m for the purchase of the hotel, the first phase of the development will take place over a 24-month period. It is estimated that some 2,000 construction jobs would be created.
With the redevelopment of the harbour, the project is poised to act as an economic stimulus for Grand Bahama by bringing in about two million extra passengers annually to make use of the associated facilities. These will include a five-star hotel property, water-based family entertainment, and dining, gaming and other entertainment options.
On Monday, Grand Lucayan chairman, Michael Scott, told Tribune Business that the Government is aiming to close negotiations for the hotel’s sale by year-end. “We’re trying to get a signing of the documents by the end of the year, within the next two weeks,” said Mr Scott.
He also confirmed that the Grand Lucayan’s present occupancy levels at the 196-room Lighthouse Point - the only part of the complex currently open - were “off” due to Grand Bahama International Airport’s inability prior to this week to accept international flights.