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New management hope for Hilton

The British Colonial Hilton.

The British Colonial Hilton.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

TOURISM, Aviation and Investments Minister Chester Cooper said the government is hoping the owners of British Colonial Hilton will be able to soon find a new management company to take over the property.

Mr Cooper made the comments to reporters yesterday when asked for an update on the hotel’s closure.

Last month, British Colonial Hilton announced its plans to “indefinitely” close from February 15, citing low occupancies and poor financial performance due mainly to the pandemic.

Some 130 staff are expected to be terminated as a result of the move. However, Mr Cooper said he believes the majority of those workers will be recalled to work once a new management company takes over.

“At the moment, the position remains the same,” the minister said before going to a Cabinet meeting. “The owners of the Hilton, CCA (China Construction America) are speaking actively with other potential brands and management companies. Some of them are well known to all of us and we will wait to see the outcome of these discussions.

“Suffice to say, it is the intention of CCA to close the hotel on February 15 as has been announced and at the same time, if they are able to secure a new management company swiftly, the closure period could be very short so we are hopeful that it works out that way and we will remain in touch with owners of the property as their partners.

“They are committed to The Bahamas. They are also owners of other hotel properties nearby and we continue to be in active dialogue with them.”

Asked about the future of Hilton employees yesterday, Mr Cooper replied: “It’s very likely that they will recall most or all of the employees when they reopen.

“They will still need properties to reopen so to really solve the issue, they need a manager, a brand and a network that they can draw on to get guests to come to their property and, of course, the jobs will be available for the qualified applicants.

“I won’t speak for them, but I am satisfied that they will recall some, or most of the employees should that outcome happen. We can’t speak to the potential time frame of this. This is clearly a private matter between the owners of the property and potential new brands so this is not something we have direct control over.”

As for the country’s tourism recovery, Mr Cooper said that visitor arrivals remain strong.

“The Caribbean still leads the rebound for the world and for the fourth quarter, we’re tracking slightly behind where we were pre-pandemic but suffice to say, our numbers are looking stronger moving forward,” he said.

“We continue to have five ships a day in the harbour in terms of cruise lines and this is comforting given the peril recently in the cruise industry, but we are seeing positive numbers. We’re hopeful that the CDC will re-look at the ratings very shortly. We’re seeing a significant drop in the number of new cases of COVID as you know and this is going to bode positively for our tourism rating in terms of CDC and the tourism bookings moving forward.”

Pleased with declining COVID infections, Mr Cooper also said the government has decided to keep its rapid antigen testing requirement for vaccinated people entering the country.

The government was expected to implement a mandatory RT-PCR testing policy for all travellers in early January in response to the nation’s fourth wave.

However, the requirement was suspended after visitors experienced challenges obtaining the tests due to supply shortages.

“There was some contemplation with respect to the PCR. That’s behind us. We recently gazetted the rules that confirm that we’re moving forward with the antigen test. This is desirable for travellers across the USA, in particular which is our major source market as the PCR tests are very difficult to find in some cities,” Mr Cooper said yesterday.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

So 3 years ago we were 100% that if we got the Lucayan sold 100% of the staff would be rehired and Freeports economy would be back in swing

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Alan1 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Sadly with all the hassles and expense involved in completing the Health Visa and obtaining tests to enter and re-enter their countries visitors are not coming in the numbers as before. There are too many uncertainties. The Government will not ease the rules so we all suffer from the tourism downturn.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I doubt this had to do with the health visa. Tourism COVID and death dont go together. their business is probably conferences and business clients

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lovingbahamas 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Dominican Republic doesn’t have a “$40 Health Visa” and no tests. They are thriving. Health visa is probably here for good. Health visa just another way to fleece tourists. No way it costs $40 per person to operate. Or, is someone’s hand in cookie jar?!?

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Jetflt 4 months, 3 weeks ago

If you think Tourism and COVID don't go together - you are sadly mistaken! Take it from someone that doesn't reside in the Bahamas but visits each year. I haven't been back to the Bahamas because of all the BS you have to go through with test before you enter the country, test after you get there, test before you return to the US and while you're in the Bahamas, respond to a health check each day. Ridiculous nonsense, just like the masks! It's all theatre! Take a look at the recent study from Johns Hopkins...............lockdowns have done NOTHING! Lockdowns have saved NO lives! It's time to get on with life, lift the restrictions and all the BS that goes with it, and MOVE ON! Other Countries have lifted the restrictions. Despite the nonsense requirements of the U.S. government, the U.S. economy is big enough to absorb some of the stupid decisions made in this country, but last I checked, the Bahamas can't afford to be stupid in their decisions that impact tourism. Keep it up...........see what happens.

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pt_90 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Bahamas is not under lockdown.

The requirement to test before returning is that of the US and other countries so blame the feds for that.

Hilton's issues predated covid. COVID accelerated them

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