Grand Bahama “is on the move” said Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Chester Cooper when asked about the Grand Lucayan prior to the Cabinet Meeting held in Freeport on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
The Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation said, “We have taken the position that we want to validate proof of funding and we are in the process of going through that at the moment. The government knows how important the property is to Grand Bahama and its economy, as well as to the nation, and they are working diligently and when they get to a point, an announcement will be made.”
Questioned on the status of the Grand Bahama International Airport, the Deputy Prime Minister said they are about to begin demolition. “There are very complex agreements that are currently being prepared. The lawyers are working diligently.”
With a foreign lender, a foreign airport manager and a consortium of five entities that make up the local partners, there are a number of agreements being made. Consultants are currently working on the ground, and the Deputy Prime Minister said he will meet with them next Tuesday to view the designs.
“The reality is that the work has continued since we entered the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) in March. The process is we entered the MOU, we are now completing the full set of legal agreements and designs. We’re going to begin the demolition work shortly. Renovation of the Air Traffic Control Tower is going to begin first and then we’ll go into full scale construction.”
The 2025 deadline for the completion of the airport, is still in place with all parties committed.
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper then turned his attention to airlift to the island stating that they have been “very deliberate and very focused” having engaged Bahamasair for flights from Raleigh, North Carolina; and Sunwing. It is hoped that these flights can become year-round.
With Sunwing recently acquired by WestJet, he said, “this is going to be an overall positive for The Bahamas and Grand Bahama. WestJet has always been a good partner with direct services from Toronto and Montreal, as well as Calgary.” They are currently working to get more airlift to Grand Bahama.
Other airlines include Frontier, Silver and Bahamasair for the possibility of additional routes. For more airlift, he said, they are also speaking with Air Canada which flies from Charlotte and Miami.
“The challenge on the island at the moment is the number of hotel rooms and we’re hoping we can get Breakers Cay open in a short period of time to support the airlift.
“Suffice to say, all of our airline partners are standing by and they are ready to support the island of Grand Bahama. The product is strong, our overall numbers is just 96 percent of 2019, only four percent behind 2019 let’s put it that way; our cruise numbers are up 188 percent compared to 2019.
“So, Grand Bahama is on the move. There’s excitement about the product. People now realize there is a significant level of things to do in East End and West End, and of course in Freeport, and this is attracting a significant level of interest from stakeholders and, potentially, new partners,” he said.
Additionally, the government will make a statement on the $300 million development in West Grand Bahama and it is expected that more information will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
When asked about commercial banks going into the Family Islands that currently have no banks, the Deputy Prime Minister said the issue has been a concern of the government for some time. As the large Canadian banks have been withdrawing from the islands, the money transfer agencies have been engaged to work with existing banks to provide the service.
“I anticipate the bank involved is going to make an announcement soon in relation to Exuma and Long Island mission; and we hope that as a result of the successful implementation of these plans in Exuma and Long Island, that other islands will benefit in due course,” he said.