EDITOR, The Tribune
Bahamians who are harbouring pessimism about Royal Caribbean’s and the ITM Group’s impressive plans for the Grand Lucayan and Freeport Harbour should visit Royal Caribbean blog site in order to read an article by one Matt Hochberg concerning the planned $300 million investment. It’s a very good read for those cynics in New Providence and Grand Bahama who are questioning the sincerity of Royal Caribbean, in light of the 2018 deal with the Wynn Group for the Grand Lucayan falling through. With Hutchison Whampoa’s uncommitted posture towards the rundown property which had taken a beating by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the Free National Movement administration made the difficult and unpopular decision to purchase the resort for $65 million.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar had recently mentioned the closure of the former Princess Resort and Casino in 2004 after the passing of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne as a possible motivating factor in the acquisition of the Grand Lucayan. Had the Grand Lucayan shut down, it would’ve probably suffered the same fate as the Princess. What I can remember about this entire ordeal is the ruckus it stirred up. Critics such as Fred Smith and Athena Damianos both voiced opposition to this transaction in 2018 in The Tribune. Damianos referenced BARTAD, BAMSI, the Hatchet Bay Farms, the Cable Beach hotels and Carnival as lessons in fiscal madness the FNM government should learn from. As for Smith, he called the acquisition “economic suicide.” His unsolicited advice about encouraging the disinterested Hutchison Whampoa to sell or find a capable operator was, in my opinion, unreasonable.
Some 18 months later, the special purpose vehicle, Lucayan Renewal Holdings, has succeeded in silencing these Bahamian critics who cried wolf. According to Hochberg, the “Lucayan property will be world class beachfront destination with a 526 room hotel, shopping village, spa and wellness centre, water based entertainment; including a massive water and adventure theme park; a 40,000 square foot convention, etc.” Freeport Harbour will be transformed into Harbour Village, with shopping and dining venues and other touristic amenities, that might rival Atlantis on Paradise Island. With assets close to $27 billion, Royal Caribbean certainly has the financial resources to bring to fruition its grandiose plans for Freeport. I am an optimist who believe that the Grand Lucayan can be transformed into another Sea World. Grand Bahamians should all be excited.
March 8, 2020.