By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
MANY vendors at the Port Lucaya Marketplace are optimistic about the sale of the Grand Lucayan hotel alongside the new mega cruise port venture, which are expected to revive Grand Bahama’s ailing economy.
These two major investments, agreements that were executed last week, will create 2,000 direct jobs and attract scores of visitors back to the island.
Electra America has entered an agreement to purchase the Grand Lucayan for $100m, and plans to invest $300m to develop the property. Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation broke ground last Thursday to start construction of a $200m cruise port at Sharp Rock in East Grand Bahama.
As the island had been struggling since 2019 to recover from Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, both major developments have been welcomed news.
“We are extremely optimistic about what is about to take place here in GB,” straw vendor Sybilene Watson told The Tribune. This will definitely bring tourists to the market here.
She looks forward to the time when the hotel will once more be fully operational. “With the hotel coming on board soon, everybody is extremely happy to hear that and waiting with great anticipation.”
Ms Watson said that many young men will also be able to find employment when construction starts at the hotel.
Dorothy Pratt-Bain beamed about the tremendous prospects of both projects. “I feel great. Things are on the horizon,” she said. “I am very optimistic about what these investments will do for us and I thank God for the new day government. It is everybody’s time now.
Netra, a vendor who called for the reinstatement of stipends for vendors at PLM, is looking forward to seeing some improvement with the sale of GLR.
“Yes, we feel optimistic, and hopefully things pick up in the future with the hotel sale. I am looking forward to that because it is bad around here,” she said. “We also need some ships and we (are) good.”
Another vendor, Colleen added: “I feel great because for what we are going through now in this Port Lucaya, we need that. So, I thank God for the prime minister and the DPM, and the buyer. I feel great because they couldn’t do it in four-and-a-half years, and we do it in seven months.”
Other vendors were hopeful, but said they preferred to take a wait and see approach.
“It is a good thing to hear the hotel is sold. Let’s just hope and pray the sale will really go through because I know in the past we had many purchases, but nothing ever surfaced,” said one vendor who did not want to be named.
“We have to keep watching and praying that all goes well because we really need a boost. When you look at GB, you have persons unemployed from Dorian and the pandemic, which brought the economy to a halt. We pray God will work a miracle and allow all these projects to go through,” the vendor went on to note.
Mary Williams was among them also.
She said she was not convinced that the hotel was really sold. She’ll believe when the deal closes, she said.
“It is really sold for real? If these people wanted to pull out, then they don’t have to buy it. I don’t know what to believe because this hotel been sold so many times now. So, you don’t what to believe. The one thing I believe in is God will take care of me. I am sure it is going to get better, but it is hard to believe anything right now.”
Mr McKenzie said the joint government-private initiative was good and brought some activity to the Port Lucaya Marketplace for three weeks.
“We appreciate the stipend and everything that has been done. The government is fighting for us. But even after the attention came to PL we had business, and we still have Junkanoo up here, but when a cruise ship come here with 3,000 passengers we need some assurance and help with directing that traffic up here, at least 1,000 passengers or more.
“We want to have consistent business like everyone else because this is our livelihood. We looking for a consistent flow of tourists coming in this area. We need government, the Ministry of Tourism and the GB Port Authority to find a way to make this happen.
“On Friday a cruise ship was in, and it brought 2,000 passengers, and we saw ten people; we count them. The store owners were also asking what is going on. But it seems they diverted back to their ways, and we got the attention for three weeks and that’s it.”
Mr McKenzie hopes that officials can convince the cruise ships to encourage their passengers to visit PLM.
“You give us the people and it is our job to sell the product. When we don’t have people, we have no one to sell to,” he said.