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Downtown Group Hopes Cruise Ports ‘Benefit All’

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) yesterday said it hopes that the cruise port developments eyed for both Nassau and Freeport will benefit “all stakeholders”.

Ed Fields, the DNP’s managing director, told Tribune Business: “While the matter is now under consideration by the government, we would prefer to remain silent. Of course we are hopeful that, whatever the outcome, negotiations are based on changing circumstances so that any investment is viable and has the capacity to have an acceptable level of return for all stakeholders.”

His comments came amid concerns that Freeport’s potential emergence as a mega cruise port hub, with two separate proposals before the government, represents a potential threat to Nassau’s status with the industry.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told this newspaper this week that Nassau has “nothing to be afraid of” from Freeport’s two mega cruise ports, while admitting both projects have added “fresh” urgency to the capital’s revival.

Rejecting fears that the major cruise lines will have little reason to call on Nassau if their Freeport projects come to fruition, he told Tribune Business that the industry’s rapid growth meant The Bahamas needed to make “more of our country available to them”.

With 90 cruise ships under construction, and worldwide demand for cruise vacations growing rapidly, he said The Bahamas needed to maintain its competitiveness by providing new destinations that exploit this nation’s proximity to the industry’s largest home ports.

Warning that The Bahamas cannot afford to “remain static” in an important element of its tourism product, Mr D’Aguilar nevertheless conceded that the proposed Freeport ports had further exposed why it was “so critical” to upgrade Nassau - both the port and downtown area - as a destination.

He also rejected suggestions that the Freeport cruise port proposals, and respective involvement of Carnival and Royal Caribbean in them, would have any influence on the government’s decision over who is chosen to manage/operate Nassau’s cruise port.

Both cruise lines and the Mexican port developer, ITM Group, which is partnering with Royal Caribbean to acquire the Grand Lucayan and develop a proposed water-based, adventure-type theme park at both the resort and Freeport Harbour, are involved in the same bid to take over Prince George Wharf.

Carnival Cruise Line, meanwhile, is set to develop a $100m cruise port investment on a 320-acre site at Sharp Rock, close to the University of The Bahamas campus.

Mr D’Aguilar recently told this newspaper that the government’s evaluation committee has reached a “consensus” on the three Nassau cruise port bids.

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