The Government of The Bahamas sold the Grand Lucayan on Monday, March 2, 2020 to a partnership between Royal Caribbean International and ITM (Bahamas Port Investments Ltd.), which is expected to make a $250 million investment between the hotel and the redevelopment of the cruise port. The Heads of Agreement Signing Ceremony was held on the Great Lawn of the property, some 11 months following the signing of the Letter of Intent on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis described the day as a wonderful one as the government’s intention was never to hold on to the property, but initially purchased it so save jobs of Grand Bahamians and businesses. “As we stated at the time, it was our intention to privatize the property as quickly as possible. We wanted to ensure that we found the right buyer who shared our vision for the renewal of Grand Bahama. Our vision was the renewal and rebirth of Grand Bahama’s tourism sector and product as an essential element in the restoration of this island’s potential.
“I am pleased that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the ITM Group, trading as Bahamas Ports International, share our vision and decided to invest in the long-term future and sustainability of Grand Bahama. The Developer shared their vision of reinventing the tourism product for land-based guests arriving by air and those arriving by cruise and ferry ships with a distinctive Bahamian flavour and characteristics.” He continued, “This $250 million dollar investment will go a long way in revitalizing Grand Bahama, with myriad economic and employment opportunities for more Grand Bahamians. After many false dawns, there is an exciting new horizon for our second most populous island and economic center. Both the government and the developer are investing in the future and possibilities of Grand Bahama. Grand Bahamas is at the beginning of a new day.” As a result of the purchase, 3,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created in construction as well as working at the hotel or cruise port. Grand Bahamians will reap the benefits of capital investment, employment opportunities for Bahamian workers in the tourism and construction industries, increased commerce for local businesses in the Port Lucaya Market Place, taxi drivers and tour operations.
This increased revenue will enable the government to support infrastructural programs. Additionally, training programs will be offered for Bahamians through RCCL Training Academy as well as opportunities for small businesses and Bahamian entrepreneurs including those producers of Bahamian products. “With Grand Bahama’s proximity to the large Florida market in particular, this investment will promote sustainable economic growth and development on Grand Bahama. This investment will also expand the experience for cruise passengers to The Bahamas. As you are aware, a high number of cruise experiences are Bahamas only cruises, a strategic advantage for The Bahamas and good economics for cruise lines. Given the many millions of people who enjoy cruises and the size of the market, the new ports in Nassau and Grand Bahama will both enjoy increased numbers. “Ladies and Gentlemen: As a result of this development it is anticipated that Grand Bahama will provide a better and more enjoyable overall guest experience to Freeport, Grand Bahama, and promote future traffic growth to Grand Bahama. We must revitalize public infrastructure and provide economic opportunities and incentives for the private sector to invest in the revitalization of properties and businesses.”
The Prime Minister said discussions are currently ongoing to determine the best way to redevelop the Grand Bahama International Airport, which will require a major investment. “I first came to Grand Bahama many years ago. Like many of you I have seen its ups and downs, its struggles and its needs. I also saw the hope and tenacity of the many good and talented people who live here. You have demonstrated courage and resilience. With this major investment and other investments, we are restoring the confidence of Grand Bahama. Your development is vital for our entire country. I am grateful that my government could play a role in helping to build a new Grand Bahama.” Minister of Tourism & Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar noted that the day could not come fast enough for him, with the opposition to purchase of the property by the government, even though the intention was to own it for only a brief period. Some 18 months later, the property has been sold. He said, “As Minister of Tourism and Minister with Responsibility for this property, I am extremely excited that that the intended purchasers of this hotel are Royal Caribbean and the ITM Group. Between them, they are well funded, bring to the table a great deal of experience in the tourism sector, and have a proven track record of successful projects. This hotel is to be transformed. Hundreds of millions of dollars are to be invested into this property to refurbish/renovate/reconstruct 500 rooms in Phase One and another 500 rooms along with 500 villas in Phase Two.
Additional features will include a new casino, a spectacular water theme park and a new shopping, restaurant and retail center. Add to that the new cruise port that is to be built in the Freeport Harbour to accommodate three ships in Phase One and up to seven ships in subsequent phases, and one will quickly conclude that this entire project, hotel and waterpark right here where we are standing plus new cruise port, plus attractions down at the Freeport Harbour is absolutely monumental for tourism in Grand Bahama.” Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, gave welcome remarks. Also giving remarks were Robert Shamosh, Chief Executive Officer, Holistica Destinations; Mauricio Hamui, Chief Executive Officer, ITM; and Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.
Also, in attendance were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Peter Turnquest and other Ministers of Cabinet; Members of Parliament, Permanent Secretaries, Senior Government Officials, representatives from the business community, taxi drivers, and straw vendors. Immediately following the official ceremony, guests were treated to the pulsating sounds of a Junkanoo Rushout followed by a reception.