By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The deputy prime minister yesterday voiced optimism that downtown Nassau’s British Colonial resort may only be closed for two months until a new brand partner is found to replace Hilton.
Chester Cooper, also minister of tourism, investments and aviation, told reporters before the weekly Cabinet meeting that he was “positive” China Construction America (CCA), the British Colonial’s owner, could absorb many of the 120-130 employees being terminated with today’s closure at its adjacent Margaritaville and Pointe properties.
“There have to be some renovations to the property. We are advised that the property will close for renovations,” Mr Cooper said. “We hope that this will be a short period of time. We hope that the staff will be absorbed into the other properties that are owned by CCA, the same developer that owns the Hilton. So we are positive about these outcomes.
“We look forward to them coming to fruition, but we anticipate that over the course of time the developers themselves will make an announcement along these lines. We’ve spoken with them at the very highest levels.
“Myself, along with the Prime Minister, have spoken with the chairman and the executives of CCA, the owners of the Hilton. They are committed to The Bahamas. They are committed to the property at number one Bay Street, and certainly they are committed to the other developments next door. So we are optimistic about the future.”
Mr Cooper added: “I’m not at liberty to announce a partner for CCA. That’s something they would need to disclose. What we anticipate perhaps is a two-month closure period based on the information that we received.”
He also spoke about Mayaguana receiving its first cruise ship call on Monday, and said: “We have received a number of requests from a number of small cruise lines to go into Family Island destinations. We are cautious in our approach to granting permissions to many of our Family Islands.
“We’ve had some environmental issues related to the damaging of reefs, etc... and some of the islands nearby North Eleuthera, not in relation to the cruise line that’s come into the southeastern Bahamas but, generally speaking, we are concerned about the future development of cruising.”
Mr Cooper continued, “We have a fantastic port in downtown Nassau; we have spent hundreds of millions. That’s ideal for large cruise ships. We’re encouraging more calls for Grand Bahama. We’re developing the product in Grand Bahama even further. We’re supporting the product through the Tourism Development Corporation and all the arms of government.
“So we’re going to have some exciting cruise centres for cruise ships to go into. We have 16 major destinations. We do not want all of them to be cruise destinations. Some would be eco-tourism, boutique resort type destinations, and we’re going to continue to develop them as such.”