Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE signing for the government’s takeover of the Grand Bahama International Airport is expected in “a matter of weeks,” with the sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort to come soon after, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed on Friday while in Grand Bahama.
His comments came during the recommissioning of the first phase redevelopment of the Rand Memorial Hospital, which is undergoing renovation following major flood damage during Hurricane Dorian.
Dr Minnis indicated his anticipation of returning to Grand Bahama to sign the deals for the airport and the hotel in Lucaya.
He said: “I look forward to seeing you very soon as I return in a matter of weeks to sign and take over the airport services here in Grand Bahama. And shortly after that, I hope to return very soon where we will sign the hotel, Our Lucaya, over to the new official owners.”
In March 2020, the government signed a heads of agreement with Royal Caribbean International and the ITM Group for the purchase and redevelopment of the three hotels at Grand Lucayan and Freeport Harbour.
Holistica Destinations, the joint venture group formed between RCI and ITM, proposed to transform the Grand Lucayan into a world-class destination with water-based entertainment, including a massive water and adventure theme park. Other amenities proposed included a shopping village that will feature a variety of activities and family entertainment, and a 40,000 sq ft convention centre.
The second component will involve the redevelopment of the harbour into a new cruise facility, with three new additional berths capable of accommodating the largest cruise ships in the world. There will be a harbour village, comprising shopping outlets, restaurants, beach and wellness areas, and a multi-modern transportation hub, with infrastructure for water ferries and ground transportation.
The Grand Bahama International Airport, which sustained severe damage during Dorian, is also in need of major redevelopment.
The government has agreed to acquire the airport for $1 from the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hutchison Whampoa. The asset will be transferred to the Airport Authority, which will also assume a portion of staff related costs which are not expected to exceed $1 million.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar indicated that once the transaction is completed, the airport will be owned by the AA and redeveloped and managed by the SPV, similar in concept to the Nassau Airport Development Company Ltd. That SPV will be charged with redevelopment, rebuilding, and making the new airport in Freeport, far more resilient against significant weather events such as hurricanes.
Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson has indicated that several investors are interested in entering into a public-private partnership with the government to redevelop the airport in Grand Bahama.
The redevelopment and reopening of both the airport and hotel will revive the island’s tourism sector, which has been significantly affected over the past 18 months.