Grand Lucayan, Sold
#FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – February 2, 2020 — 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.
FBI and Bahamas looking into woman’s death
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – The FBI is investigating a woman’s ‘suspicious’ death on a Carnival Cruise ship in February. The unnamed woman and her husband boarded the Carnival Sunshine on February 27th, for a trip to the Bahamas, but she was dead before they arrived in the port in The Bahamas.
The FBI said Carnival’s team had administered life saving measures when the woman was reported unresponsive, but they were unsuccessful. The body and the woman’s husband were released to the Bahamian authorities when the cruise arrived in the country.
In a statement shared with US media houses, Carnival Cruises claimed the death has been a natural one. The Nassau Guardian said a source told them the police findings had concurred with that assessment saying it was a “normal sudden death of a tourist who wasn’t feeling well.”
The FBI was waiting for the cruise and when it got back to South Carolina on March 4th, they immediately boarded and began to investigate the room based on ‘evidence of a crime.’ The FBI also searched the couple’s car.
No updates have been shared to contradict the currently established cause of death.
Why Sargassum Matters
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – “If you don’t like it, go to another beach!” Is what Aaron John, an Education Officer from The Bahamas National Trust jokingly tells our news team about sargassum blooms; his quip, motivated by the necessity of nature when pit against the notion that there is a real threat when the stinky seaweed makes its annual appearance.
John can admit, he says, that Sargassum isn’t very pretty but life isn’t all about aesthetics and in this instance that ugly patch serves a purpose.
“We love our sandy beaches, but in order to keep them we need Sargassum. When storms come, they wash away all the sand off the beach but sargassum acts as a mulch to protect the sand from water erosion. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good but we need it.”
He said it also provides a habitat for small crustaceans, crabs, and insects that are all necessary to our ecosystem and islanders have found use for the weed.
“Historically, (in The Bahamas) we have been using sargassum as fertilizer, especially in the family Islands as far back as I know,” he said. “Birds don’t go on the beach unless there is Sargassum and what do they do? they feed – it’s beautiful.”
He encouraged residents to just leave it be if they came across it.
Sargassum isn’t harmful to humans, except for people with respiratory issues who may find the rotten egg smell triggers asthma. Despite this, it’s not advisable to walk through the weeds which may hide sharp rocks and bottles or vulnerable animals.
Experts say Sargassum blooms began to increase in size around 2011 and have continued to get bigger and bigger since. This year‘s bloom is around 5000 miles long and 300 miles wide and visible from space.
“I know it’s not a general outlook, but I would like to change the perspective on sargassum,” John said, pointing out The Bahamas National Trust is actively working to decrease alarm over the less worrisome events like sargassum as it raises the profile on the environmentally devastating.
Lease agreement approved for diaspora office
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ Bahamas Diaspora Office is moving closer and closer to opening day, following the Cabinet’s approval for the signing of a lease agreement.
The lease will be signed with FINCEN ltd in the Bahamas. Several weeks ago, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration confirmed to our news team that the location had been found and was being finalized; now a lease is approved at the Cabinet level.
The interest in the TCI from TC Bahamians was evident in the diaspora meetings held in early February. The two meetings held in Nassau and Grand Bahama were completely full and over-subscribed by hundreds.
It’s interest which the Government hopes will translate to real life population growth, bolstering the local population before the native population ‘goes extinct’.
The Opposition PDM is on the record with what it feels is a far more viable solution to a dwindling native population; seek out the country’s own citizens and bring them back home.
Cabinet did not state when the office will open.
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