After saying the government is only going to hold the Grand Lucayan resort and not renovate it, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said if a buyer doesn’t come soon enough the government would have to renovate Memories hotel.
D’Aguilar’s comments came after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government made a $10 million down payment to purchase the resort.
Last Wednesday, Minnis said the government would also assess how much it would cost to open Memories, which has been closed since 2016.
The tourism minister said, “There are going to be two trains that are moving. The first train is going to try to sell the hotel and the other train is to start thinking about how we are going to renovate Memories.
“So, if the sale doesn’t happen at the speed we want it to, at least we are starting to plan for the renovation of Memories.”
He said, “If the sale takes a little bit longer than we think, then we can contemplate moving forward on the renovation of that property.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s that much to get that property open.”
The government signed a sales agreement with Hutchison Whampoa for the resort with a final sale price of $65 million.
When he made the announcement last Wednesday, the prime minister said the sale would be finalized over the next 30 days.
While the government will assess the cost to reopen Memories, Minnis said it is not interested in opening Breaker’s Cay.
D’Aguilar had said earlier that the government was only interested in purchasing the resort, holding it and finding a buyer.
“The government wants to buy it, hold it, continue to actively look for a seller to stabilize it and to sell it on,” he said.
“That’s what we are doing. The renovations, upgrade… that may change, but right now I don’t think that’s the policy of the government.”
He also predicted that the government would suffer some financial losses as a result of the purchase but said it was a risk the government has to take.
Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas Michael Scott, who chairs the board of a special purpose vehicle charged with finding a buyer for the resort, was unsure whether Memories would be operational before any sale to a new buyer.
Scott said the government hopes to find a buyer for the property within three to six months and is already reviewing offers from interested buyers.
Scott noted that the government may “have to take a haircut” when it sells the resort.
He said if an investor approached them with a program to invest $150 million into the property, “We might give it to you for $40 million to $45 million.”
But he said the caveat is that the investor must prove that it is serious about investing in the resort and not seeking to flip it.
Grand Lucayan closed in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew. Later that year, only Lighthouse Pointe reopened.
When he announced the purchase last week, Minnis stressed that his government has no interest in running hotels.
“It is not our intention to run a hotel,” Minnis said.
“The government cannot run a hotel. But it is our intention to save the jobs of the Grand Bahamians that work at this hotel, [which totals] approximately 400 people. And you can see the impact the closure of this hotel will have on the Lucayan strip.”
He added, “We are in a holding mode.
“We are holding the hotel to preserve and protect the economy of Grand Bahama.
“Once a sale is available, this hotel goes. As soon as possible, I would like to sell it.”
Education: College of The Bahamas, English