• Pelican Bay suffering same water issues as Lucayan
• Island’s tourism ‘has no engine’ to drive destination
• Almost five years since Memories’ post-storm close
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Grand Bahama hotel operator says “it’s a lucrative business to be in hot water heater sales” as his property grapples with the same salt water issues that have afflicted the nearby Grand Lucayan.
Magnus Alnebeck, Pelican Bay’s general manager, told Tribune Business that the hotel has been “spending a lot of time, energy and money” on hot water heaters, showers maintenance, changing out equipment and other tasks due to the high salinity of the supply received from Grand Bahama Utility Company.
With Grand Lucayan guests still being transferred to Pelican Bay because of ongoing air conditioning (A/C) system problems, Mr Alnebeck said: “We’re having the same problems at Pelican Bay. We’re spending a lot of time, energy and money on maintenance and changing equipment, which is a lot more time consuming and expensive than it normally is.
“That is before we start considering hot water heaters, showers, fixtures and furnitures because we’re going through them a lot more quicker than normal because of the salt water. It’s not just a hotel problem; it’s a residential problem, too. It’s a lucrative business to be in hot water sales at the moment.”
Revealing that the Grand Lucayan’s difficulties are also continuing, Mr Alnebeck added: “Their A/C is working one week and is not working another week. This week they’re moving their guests to Pelican Bay, and we are trying to help them as much as we can, but a guest coming to a beachfront property where the A/C doesn’t work doesn’t do any good for the destination.
“It varies from week to week. Some weeks they [the Grand Lucayan] have it working, and the next they have another part going down. They’re in need of a major overhaul, and are suffering from salt water that is affecting their cooling parts.”
Michael Scott QC, the Grand Lucayan’s chairman, yesterday told Tribune Business that the Government-owned resort is moving to resolve its water and A/C woes with a new reverse osmosis plant installed at the hotel and “a new chiller on the way”.
Confirming that “a lot of time, energy and money” has been involved, he said: “That’s an enduring problem. We’re trying to get new equipment. It has its origins in the water sold to us by Grand Bahama Utility Company.
“There’s another development in that saga. They’re denying liability or responsibility, so I read them the riot act and we’ll see where that takes us.” Mr Scott had previously blamed the resort’s woes, including closures to overnight guests, on an inferior water supply that “rotted our chillers” and left it without air conditioning.
Some $500,000 was to be invested in installing the reverse osmosis plant, with Mr Scott revealing that the Grand Lucayan was paying the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) owned GBUC some $40,000 per month for water with high salinity levels that was responsible for corroding the resort’s chillers and thus shutting down its A/C systems.
Mr Scott said at the time: “Very simply, the water supply we are getting from Grand Bahama Utility Company, courtesy of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, is so bad that it’s rotting our pipes, it’s rotting our chillers and its rotting our infrastructure systems.
“The water they are pumping out to consumers, for which we are paying $40,000 a month, has too high a chloride/salinity content. Is it a surprise that our pipes are being corroded? Our A/C chillers are water cooled, and that destroys them. It’s palpably a disgrace.
“If water is being delivered to us in accordance with a contract of service from the Grand Bahama Utility Company, which is a GBPA company, and that water is above the limit for chloride/salinity content, can you imagine what it is doing to other people’s properties?”
However, Ian Rolle, the GBPA’s president, subsequently responded by branding Mr Scott’s attack as “disingenuous”, adding that GBUC had been impacted by “an Act of God” in the shape of Hurricane Dorian’s storm surge that overwhelmed Grand Bahama’s wellfields and contaminated them with salt water intrusion.
Mr Rolle said GBUC’s $5m investment in a three million gallon reverse osmosis plant “will not only restore water potability to the remaining 30 percent of customers across Grand Bahama, but will also ensure that Grand Bahamians will never again be without potable water for a prolonged period”. The plant was being installed throughout the summer.
Mr Alnebeck, meanwhile, said Grand Bahama’s hotel and tourism industry continued to “lack an engine” to drive momentum as it continues to await the closure of the long-running Grand Lucayan sale to Royal Caribbean and ITM Group.
“Until we have some attractive hotel product, it’s going to be hard to impact on overnight tourism,” he said. “We really have no engine. Viva Fortuna is trying. They’re very much more of a middle market, beachfront, all-inclusive product but they cannot drive the destination.”
The Pelican Bay chief also questioned what the Royal Caribbean/ITM deal will look like when it ultimately does close, querying whether “it’s water park or a hotel”. He added: “Now we’re coming up on five years when Memories shut down after Hurricane Matthew in October. Let’s hope they get on with it as quick as they can.”
Pelican Bay’s occupancy rates presently stand at 30 percent, and Mr Alnebeck said the present 9pm curfew and high level of COVID cases was “having an impact” on the local market as fewer people ate out in restaurants during the evening.