Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the government is still negotiating the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort, suggesting yesterday that the commitment of developers may not be as firm as it was before the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s not a good environment to be trying to strike a deal with a company that is in as much distress as they are in,” he said, referring to Royal Caribbean International, which has partnered with the Mexican-based ITM group to invest some $300m in the hotel.
The purchase deal and heads of agreement for the Grand Lucayan resort were signed in May. Some 3,000 direct and indirect jobs were promised.
Mr D’Aguilar said yesterday: “You’re either going to buy it or you’re not going to buy it. Every one of the projects we’ve done have been done with cruise companies and every cruise company, we have to face it, is fighting for survival and they’re fighting for their core business which is taking people, putting them on ships and sending them around. The next tier in their importance is obviously the destinations. Some of them they own, some of them they go to. It’s the new reality. They’re obviously all fighting for survival and the decisions and the investments and the commitments they could’ve made six months ago they can’t make now so it’s just a completely different environment.”
Mr D’Aguilar suggested the developers are distracted as the COVID-19 crisis continues to ravage businesses around the globe.
He said: “We have Disney in South Eleuthera, all their parks are closed, their cruise ships have been brought to a dead halt, you’ve got Carnival, the largest cruise company in the world, they’re at a dead stop, Royal Caribbean is going to do the Grand Bahama project, Carnival is going to do the Grand Bahama project, you got Virgin in Bimini, they were just about to launch, I think they were one week away from their first stop in the Bahamas and then of course we shut down.
“So a lot of these companies are having to first and foremost fight for survival. What are they doing, they’re going out and borrowing billions of dollars to try and stay afloat because they understand for example Carnival has like a billion ships, they’re all just sitting there, burning everyday. You can’t just park it anywhere because no one ever contemplated ‘oh these cruise ships going to some place and just sitting still’ so you got no place to park them so they have to sit out in the ocean, they have to float up and down, you got a crew on board, you have to burn fuel, you have to feed them, you have to keep the systems going.
“Then you have to think about how you are going to repurpose your business. Before it was pack ‘em in, mass tourism, now you got to think about how that is going to go. Needless to say they’re slightly distracted by that.”