By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama Chamber of Commerce president Greg Laroda believes that getting the Grand Lucayan resort sold is more important to Grand Bahamians than the proposed price tag of $150m.
“So, I think probably where most of us from Grand Bahama stand, while we are not saying the government should give the hotel away to anyone, I think the price that it would eventually sell for is not as important to us as it being sold,” he said yesterday.
“We just want to see it done.”
He also stressed that finding an operator who is willing to develop the property in the best interest of Grand Bahamians is critical.
Mr Laroda’s comments were in response to questions by reporters about the $150m figure the government wants to sell the hotel property for in Lucaya.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation, said the government believes that it is an attractive proposition. He said the resort is on 2,500 acres of prime beachfront property and has a golf course and a marina site.
At least six investors to date have expressed interest in purchasing the property, according to Mr Cooper.
Mr Laroda said Grand Bahamians just want the property sold.
“As it relates to the hotel property that is something… ever since it closed, we have been looking forward to a sale and new buyers through this process where the government bought the hotel in the interim or to try to speed up the process. Of course, some things happened along the way with (Hurricane) Dorian with the pandemic that probably caused us to be where we are today.”
The Minnis administration purchased the Grand Lucayan resort for $60m. The former government signed a Heads of Agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and ITM Group to purchase and redevelop the resort and Freeport Harbour.
However, that deal was cancelled recently.
While in Grand Bahama last week, Mr Cooper said the sale of the hotel is a priority of the Davis administration, which is working to get it sold as quickly as possible. He noted that $150m had been invested in the property through government subsidy to maintain the hotel.
Mr Laroda said: “I would not want to focus on or get into a discussion on whether I think the government is getting a good deal or not getting a good deal.
“I just want us to see an operator take over the hotel in terms of ownership who can redevelop the property and get it to the level where we need it to be and to grow the tourism (industry) on the island.
“We are trying to grow tourism, but there is a challenge now for where they can stay. So, we just need to see it sold and redeveloped - that is more our focus. And I am looking forward to some positive announcements in the next four to six weeks,” he said.
“I would like to see it where it is developed in our best interest. That is more important to me than a few million dollars here or there in the overall selling price, once we get the best deal for the Bahamian people.”
Senator Quinton Lightbourne, chairman of the Bahamas Development Bank, who paid a courtesy call to Mr Laroda at the Chamber of Commerce also commented: “What I would say is that discussions and actions so far are moving toward the best way to resolve the situation,” he said.
“I think it is the most prudent way, and I would say, in the next month, further details would be given or outlined in terms of the way moving forward.”