Dismal start to the year for Port Lucaya Marketplace

The closed straw market at Port Lucaya Marketplace with the closed Grand Lucayan Resort in the background.

The closed straw market at Port Lucaya Marketplace with the closed Grand Lucayan Resort in the background.


Tribune Freeport Reporter


The Straw Markets are closed and there are no visitors buying authentic souvenir straw crafts or browsing the stores and eating in the restaurants at Port Lucaya Marketplace - making it a dismal start to 2021.

The 80 or so straw vendors have not been out since March because cruise ships are still not sailing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the shutdown of the global cruise industry.

With the Grand Lucaya Resort closed and no cruise ships sailing, Grand Bahama’s tourism sector continues to struggle. For the first time, shop owners at Port Lucaya are “purely reliant” on locals for business sales.

Loren Madu, manager of Freeport Jewelers, is praying the situation does not last much longer. As a result of the lack of visitors, they are focusing more on getting local customers in the store.

“We are doing a lot of stuff on social media and have started doing radio ads on the radios to encourage Bahamians to come out and shop,” she said.


Storeowner Angela Rolle talks about being positive despite the COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges in Grand Bahama.

“In terms of tourists, we did not have any tourist sales during December, which is like a huge deal for us,” Madu added. “But since we have been open in September, we had one or two sales (from visitors) so we are purely relying on locals.”

Port Lucaya Marketplace sits opposite the Grand Lucayan Resort. It is the main shopping and entertainment attraction in the Lucaya area. It comprises of two straw markets, and a plethora of retails stores, restaurants, and bars. There is also a private marina for yachts and boaters.     

Mrs Madu said business and sales were good during the reopening in September and continued into December. “It was pretty decent because we had a lot of layaways and there were a lot of occasions that people were shopping for, and Christmas was pretty decent even though we had to close at 9pm and store hours were a lot shorter.”

Sales in January, however, have been very slow, she reported.

“Right now, going into January there has been a big difference. You could see that there is no one around. We don’t really know what to expect because we have never really been in this situation before. So, we are being very hopeful,” Madu stated.

To keep staff employed, Freeport Jewelers had to cut back on working hours.

“We kept all the staff, but we had to really put them on a part-time basis, with persons working fewer days. We wanted to keep everyone on board because we are praying this situation does not last too much longer.

“We have them working, but not on a full-time basis at this time. It is a struggle for them, and they also understand what we are experiencing and that jewellery is a commission-based business. So, if the sale is not there, the salary is just one part of it. But, it is really the commission that you make your money; and sales have just been slow.”

The uncertainty concerning the sale and reopening of Grand Lucayan Resort is another stressful situation for the vendors and shop owners there.  

The Grand Lucayan’s Board is looking at a February 2021 reopening. In the meantime, Royal Caribbean and ITM Group have signed a Heads of Agreement with the government to purchase and redevelop the resort property and Freeport Harbour.   

Said Madu: “We have been hearing so many rumours – didn’t they say February? I have not seen anything happening over there; I have not seen any work going on. Again, we are not focusing on that because we been disappointed so many times - we been here so many times.”


A visiting couple strolling the empty straw market at Port Lucaya Market.

In the Freeport area, some small business owners are trying to remain positive during the economic challenges in Grand Bahama brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angela Rolle, owner of OMG Couture, said she is thankful to be open for business.

“It has been like a roller coaster since COVID, but overall we are thankful that businesses are not shut down like before and that residents are shopping again on the island.

“People are shopping now – and it has become like therapy for people instead of sitting down and worrying about COVID and being depressed. They are getting out and shopping.”

Ms Rolle said she is seeing more people coming into the boutique. “We have a lot of clients coming to buy clothing, handbags, shoes, and perfume,” she said.  

“It’s been three years now into the business, and I have not regretted it one day.

Although Grand Bahama has been set back due to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, Ms Rolle said Grand Bahamians need to keep pressing forward. 

“It was hard, but we have to always keep pressing on; we can’t look at the negative. We have to look at the positive and step out on faith, and know that God will restore the GB economy,” she said.


GBI 3 years, 4 months ago

A 20 year visitor to Freeport. I'm in Toronto and there is no way to fly to FPO that doesn't make us spend an extra night in Miami. We can't make the AA flight out of Miami and through Nassau, we can't make the last Western flight. Westjet has halted Nassau flights. Now to make us rethink our winters,

We can't get a new sticker for our car without a Residence permit. Residence at $1,000 wasn't that bad but now $2,000 just isn't value for money. We didn't use our Residence for any tax reasons just as a way to show thanks for a place we always loved. We're now in Florida until April. Weather is the same and life is just simpler.


rodentos 3 years, 4 months ago

let a bahamian friend register your car...


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 4 months ago

"there are no visitors buying authentic souvenir straw crafts"

did anyone ever buy "authentic" souvenirs post 1975? We need to stop lying to ourselves about the fantastic product and junkanoo being the greatest show on earth and use the downtime to fix stuff. Rather than paying people to build sidewalks that will crumble into disrepair with in 2 years those same workers could have been on a team to make cosmetic changes to downtown. Or the same money could have been put into training. It would have made more sense to me to pay those workers to be trained as master craftsmen. That would be long lasting. The ill planned sidewalks have added 0 value to the nation's infrastructure


Bobsyeruncle 3 years, 4 months ago

Absolutely agree. All you get are cheap chinese made souvenirs. Where's the pride and local craftmanship. It's so hard to actually find authentic Bahamian made arts & crafts these days


proudloudandfnm 3 years, 4 months ago

Headline should be Another Dismal Year for Grand Bahama While Government Sits on its Ass Doing Nothing...


thps 3 years, 4 months ago

What are the biggest things that need fixing and going there to get things rolling short and long term?


joeblow 3 years, 4 months ago

So will people just continue to sit on their duffs waiting for a cruise ship to come in so they can sell trinkets from China, or will they try to find ways to pool resources (with or without the governments help) and try to help themselves.

The mentality of those in GB is so radically different than Abaco !


proudloudandfnm 3 years, 4 months ago

There is nothing we can do if government sits on iys ass doing nothing to promote a healthy economic environment. And I'm talking about the pre-pandemic economy. Since these morons came to office they have raised costs in all areas and made doing business much more difficult. They also bought a hotel and did absolutely nothing with it.

We cannot create an economy without government providing us the dynamic to get things done. Time for government to get to work and stop talking....


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