By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Free National Movement said Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper needs to deliver “urgently on his long overdue dual promises” of selling the Grand Lucayan and redeveloping the Grand Bahama International Airport.
The party’s position comes after the Grand Lucayan’s board was said to have granted the resort’s prospective purchaser a further seven-day extension so that it could assess “outstanding matters” relating to the $100m deal.
Last week, Tribune Business reported that Lucayan Renewal Holdings granted the week-long extension to September 22 at Electra America Hospitality Group’s request as the previous deadline to complete due diligence on the two sides’ agreement had expired.
In a press release, the FNM said the decision to extend the closing of the Grand Lucayan is both “troubling and disheartening” to Grand Bahama residents.
“Back in May 2022, and with much fanfare, pomp and pageantry, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, Chester Cooper, proudly announced the sale of the Grand Lucayan for $100m with a 60-day closing. We are now on the third extension of that closing and the entire nation is worried that DPM Cooper will not deliver as promised.
“This is, no doubt, a complex transaction that needs the personal and focused attention of DPM Cooper to conclude. For the sake of all of the residents of Grand Bahama, and the rebound of tourism on that island, we implore DPM Cooper to stay the course and deliver what he promised.”
The Minnis administration purchased the hotel in 2018 with a plan to sell it to a qualified buyer. However, that deal dragged on and was later cancelled shortly after the Davis-Cooper administration assumed office in 2021.
“The Free National Movement, (which) purchased the hotel to halt its potential closure and abandonment by the previous owner, wants this hotel to be reopened and the promised jobs and positive economic impact to be delivered. COVID is now behind us and the catastrophic effect of that once-in-a-century event should no longer be preventing the redevelopment of that hotel. It just needs focus and attention,” the FNM said.
The party said the residents of Freeport and Grand Bahama, and “indeed the nation,” are all watching to ensure Mr Cooper delivers what he promised as quickly as possible without any further delays.
“DPM Cooper also promised the residents of Grand Bahama a new airport. All they have heard to date is that a public private partnership (PPP), as it relates to the redevelopment of that airport, is happening.
“We have no idea who are the potential partners, no idea of their experience in airport redevelopment and management, no idea of the level of investment required, no idea of the extent of the redevelopment and no idea of the structure of the transaction.”
The release continued: “In short, the Bahamian people know nothing about the redevelopment of the Grand Bahama International Airport and are beginning to wonder if any transaction is close to conclusion or just, once again, more promises from a PLP government that is long on talk but short on results.
“Finally, the FNM is concerned that the failure to conclude a plan on the redevelopment of the airport is, in some way, hampering the closure of the sale of the Grand Lucayan. After all, until the airport is fixed and airlift into Grand Bahama is resumed, it will be difficult for any future operator of the hotel to deliver on the occupancy levels that it has projected.
“In short, DPM Cooper needs to deliver, urgently, on his long overdue dual promises of selling the Grand Lucayan and redeveloping the Grand Bahama International Airport.”