By Ashley Nixon
The Bahamas government officially announced the sale of the Grand Lucayan Hotel to Holistica, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) and the ITM Group (Bahamas Port Investment Ltd.) Monday.
The grand ceremony unfolded at the Grand Lucayan property as government officials and project partners signed a heads of agreement (HOA) document regarding the $300 million-investment.
The nation’s leader, the Honourable Hubert Minnis noted that the major undertaking will provide an economic boost and increase employment opportunities on the island.
“Given the economic situation in Grand Bahama, we could not in good conscience allow the full closure of the property. 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,” he said.
Minnis praised the investors of the project for their stout commitment in securing the stability of the island as the Grand Lucayan has played a vital role in Grand Bahama through the years.
“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. This investment will create additional employment opportunities for Bahamians in construction jobs as well as in operational positions at both the hotel property and the port property,” he added.
Gleaming with excitement for the nation’s second city, the prime minister said that although his government received some backlash in its decision to temporarily purchase the hotel, the deed was carried out for the greater good of saving employment.
“Today’s signing is a wonderful day for the Bahamian people and for the residents of Grand Bahama in particular. The Grand Lucayan properties have played a vital role in the economic life of Grand Bahama for many years. Because of this vital role, my government took the tough, and in some quarters, unpopular decision to temporarily purchase the property. We did so in order to save jobs. We did so to ensure the survival of a number of businesses dependent on tourism in general and the Grand Lucayan in particular,” Minnis concluded.
Also speaking to the opposition experienced by the government regarding the purchase, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar shared his thoughts on the momentous occasion.
“There was a considerable amount of opposition to the government’s decision to acquire this hotel. We were castigated for our decision to buy the hotel even though our sole intention was purely to hold it for a short period of time as we sought out a reputable, well funded, successfully managed company to acquire it and, more importantly, redevelop it,” he said.
“Well, our plan worked,” D’Aguilar continued. “We purchased the hotel in September 2018 and 18 months later, here we are, selling it to Holistica. Admittedly, it took a little longer than we had hoped but Hurricane Dorian was the reason for the delay.”
“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,” D’Aguilar said.
Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson noted that the sale marks a step closer to reaching a goal of embarking on a venture of bringing The Bahamas Port Project to life.
“Today, hundreds gather as we take one more significant step towards creating a new destination for the island of Grand Bahama. I recognize the significance for how far we have come and although our process is not yet completed, today we are closer than ever to making the Bahamas Port Project a reality,” he said.
“This was never about buying and selling a hotel, but creating a new and unique tourism product that will create thousands of jobs, a new water park, guaranteed airlift millions of cruise passengers from a variety of cruise lines and business opportunities for Grand Bahamians,” Thompson added.
Also on hand for the historic event, Robert Shamosh, chief executive officer of Holistica, who expressed the company’s belief that the major investment will not only serve as a driving force in the island’s sustainability, but it will in fact transform Grand Bahama.
“The history of destinations in the caribbean is one of transformation and overcoming adversity… Grand Bahama is one of these places. I’m here to tell you that we’re writing history together by announcing the arrival of a 300-million-dollar investment. This investment will greatly transform Grand Bahama Island and become a major driving force for economic development and the prosperity of its people. Holistica Destinations develops integrated and sustainable destination experiences to meet the needs of coastal communities,” he said.
“We are the leading developers of unique tourist destinations that create like experiences. We are excited about this project because of the beauty and potential we see in this country. We are committed to following the guidelines established in the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development with basic elements including people, climate, prosperity, peace and partnership. Precisely these elements are the ones we want to incorporate into Freeport in order to achieve sustainable social economic and environmental development,” Shamosh added.
Michael Bailey, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International, said the vacation-based company is confident the upcoming project will revitalize the nation’s second city.
“Royal Caribbean understands that great destinations are a truly important part of the recipe to deliver unforgettable vacation experiences and that’s what we do. But, with our partnership with Holistica, we believe the Grand Lucayan and the Harbor Village will create a world-class experience for guests and deliver new hope for the rebirth of Grand Bahama, both economically and spiritually.
“We’re very excited for the potential of this project and this truly will be a transformational project and the creation of a unique destination experience that will be the best in the world,” he said.
Bailey went on to say, “I understand that over the years there has been a number of instances where projects have not come true, but today let’s turn a new page and tell a very different story that story begins with hope that is based on the Royal Caribbean and Bahamian relationship that goes back over five decades.”
The Bahamas Port Project is forecasted to create some 3,000 jobs in Grand Bahama.