Minister Thompson says Grand Classica launch is timely

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Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, on Friday, participated in the activities for the inaugural sailing of the SS Neo Classica. The Grand Classica will join the Grand Celebration and now provide daily sailings between West Palm Beach and Freeport. The photo shows the ribbon cutting.

Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, says the introduction of the Classica comes when the government is taking steps to revitalize the tourism industry in Grand Bahama. Minister Thompson was in West Palm Beach on Friday, April 13, for the official launch of the Grand Classica’s sail between West Palm Beach and Freeport, Grand Bahama. The Classica will be joining the Grand Celebration and will now provide daily sailings between the two ports.  The Classica left West Palm Beach on Friday and arrived at Freeport’s harbor on Saturday morning. When congratulating Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line on the addition of the Classica to the service provided between West Palm Beach and Freeport, Grand Bahama, he said, “This venture could not be timelier as the government is focused on re-energizing our tourism and investment product in Grand Bahama.  The addition of this new vessel provides an invaluable link and service to the island of Grand Bahama.   The Government of Bahamas remains committed to the continued service of BPCL and its unique cruise-&-stay offering. We believe that it will further enhance the number of cruise-&-stay passengers and have a large positive economic impact for the region as a whole.”

The Minister added that government is working to get the Grand Lucayan fully opened again. “The government is concluding negotiations on the sale, renovation and full opening and re-branding of the Grand Lucayan. We are taking this opportunity to create a truly enjoyable and unique destination that your customers will enjoy.  We are truly embarking upon a new era in Grand Bahama.” The recent approval in principle of the project in West End which will revitalize the area was also mentioned. “The government recently approved in principle a project in the settlement of West End which proposes to construct, repair, revitalize, develop, and operate 246 rooms in three hotels, a banquet facility, 116 branded hotel residences, 1,000 other residences, a hotel/casino site, approximately 150,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a spa and wellness retreat, two marinas, an 18-hole golf course including driving range.” The island’s tourism’s numbers continue to improve, explained the Minister, and while tourism is the number one industry, the government is eager to get the message out that Grand Bahama is a great place to do business as well, a place suited to become an internationally recognized science, technology and innovation hub.

“We possess modern and superior infrastructure, modern roads, constant and reliable electricity supply of North-American standards, and high-quality high-speed internet. We also have a wide variety of public and private schools. Bahamians are also among the most technologically savvy people in the Caribbean. Our recent Technology Summit highlighted several Bahamians who are at the cutting edge of innovation and technology and our government embraces their experience and expertise to advance this promising industry. “Grand Bahama has proven to be an attractive place for manufacturing cutting-edge technology.  The Bahamas is currently finalizing programs for blockchain-based solutions, fin-tech, and crypto-currency companies and intend to promote blockchain as a sub-industry within ICT.  “We are also becoming H1B visa-friendly and actively working to assist US companies, who employ foreigners through the H1B visas program.  “We remain open to tailor-making packages specific to a company’s needs, allowing them to retain their talent without increasing cost.  “Legislation has been passed in our Commercial Enterprise Act which will streamline business applications and adopt immigration policy to facilitate new technology businesses.”

The Minister continued, “Freeport, Grand Bahama is the digital paradise you’ve been looking for. Our nation’s second city has superb communications infrastructure so you are always connected. Freeport has two major ISPs with independent terrestrial, subterranean, sub-sea and wireless networks. The city also boasts diverse network paths, self-healing metro, inter-island and international networks.” Explaining some of the benefits of doing business in Grand Bahama, Minister Thompson noted that Freeport is managed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, a private city management organization, in conjunction with the national government. Additionally, business owners enjoy the benefits of a tax neutral jurisdiction, and there is no capital gains, real property or corporate income tax.  Additionally, he continued, The Freeport Container Port, a 24-hour facility serving as a major transshipment hub between the US, Latin America, and Europe, has the deepest container terminal in the region. “The government is highly enthusiastic about the unique service that BPCL will continue to provide in Grand Bahama. Your cruise line provides this open-leg provision cruising: an enjoyable, cost-effective cruise and vacation experience in one.  “For Bahamians and visitors alike, BPCL provides a fantastic service that can be tailor-made to suit each passenger. The government is pleased that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line recognizes the value and promise that remains in Grand Bahama. I wish to extend our appreciation to BPCL CEO, Oneil Khosa. Kevin Shea Mr. David Johnson and the entire Team. BPCL is certainly a respected partner of the Bahamas that plays a significant role in our tourism industry.” It is hoped that with the additional ship, BPCL will be able to deliver some 400,000 passengers to Grand Bahama each year, which will have a “tremendous and direct impact”.

Minister Thompson (right) with Mayor of Riviera Beach, Thomas Masters, and Mayor of West Palm Beach, Jeri Muoio.

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