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Hotel union not interested in Grand Lucayan purchase

Although not prepared to do so with a large property like Freeport’s Grand Lucayan resort at this time, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods said the union may have to start considering the purchase of troubled hotel properties.

“I think in times to come it may be something we’d have to look at. Because the question has always been ‘Why doesn’t the union purchase?’,” said Woods, who was contacted by Guardian Business yesterday for comment on the decision of the Wynn Group to pull out of the deal to purchase the Grand Lucayan.

“And we may have to start off with smaller properties rather than a big conglomerate being your first time. Kind of get your feet wet and see how best you can get a small property up and running and what it is you want to see done at the same time.”

This week, Wynn Group CEO Paul Wynn confirmed that the company withdrew its bid to purchase the Grand Lucayan, citing high operating costs on Grand Bahama and the final $65 million purchase price decided on by the current owners, Hutchinson Whampoa.

Woods said the decision by the Wynn Group is disappointing, but understandable.

“Unless they get increased airlift into Grand Bahama, it’s difficult to get a hotel property up and running. So there’s a lot of things that have to go into it in order for you to make a conscious and an open-minded decision on that particular property,” he said.

“The Wynn Group, based on their history, would have been a good owner to come in to try to revive that property.”

Since Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement last week that he would not allow the Grand Lucayan to close and pledging that the government would purchase the property if all else fails, there has been public discussion of private Bahamian individuals or corporations possibly purchasing the resort. The hotel union has been named as a possible entity to consider purchasing the property.

“I don’t see the union purchasing the property. Well, because there are so many things that go into running a hotel property, and we don’t have the expertise. And when I say this I mean in terms of running it. We have labor, different aspects and components of labor,” Woods said.

“Now, if you’re saying at some point the union should look at investing in hotels and getting someone to run them, that is a different aspect that probably could be looked at. But for the union to run a hotel, it’s almost like government is the employer or the owner and also the employer, so when it comes time to do certain things it becomes difficult.”

However, Woods said he believes it’s government’s duty to step in and purchase the property if it cannot find another buyer soon.

“Given the climate that we are in we recognize the government is kind of hard strapped for cash, but we recognize that the government is going to do what is necessary for the citizenry. If the government is of the mind that they need to step in and purchase the hotel, that is something that former governments would have done in order to try and protect the workers. The other question is based on what I would have heard in passing, the property needs some work in order to be brought up to standard for sale. What happens then? I think I saw a question asked on the front page of the paper, where is the money coming from to purchase the property?” Woods said.

“But we know government is going to do what is necessary to ensure that, in particular, we need to look at the economy of Grand Bahama, and whatever it takes to jumpstart that economy I believe the government would be expected to do.”

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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