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D’Aguilar: Disney would stick with Bahamas if Lighthouse Point deal fails

‘They’re still interested in other destinations within The Bahamas’
Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said the government is not concerned that Disney would cancel The Bahamas as a port of call if it loses out on its bid to purchase and develop Lighthouse Point.

“I don’t think they have another option right now, I’m sure, were this not to work out, their focus would still remain on The Bahamas to provide a solution to this very vexing issue for them,” D’Aguilar said in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday.

Disney Cruise Line is motivated to find a new destination for the three new ships it is currently building, which are expected to come on-stream between 2021 and 2023. These new vessels would lead to a doubling of the number of calls on Bahamian ports.

“Remember now, Disney is asking to put their project on the southern tip of Eleuthera. If that, for some reason, were to fall apart, they’re still interested in other destinations within The Bahamas. They haven’t found any yet, but I’m sure they would then go back to the drawing board and start to look again,” D’Aguilar said.

“Because this sort of fits into their model of the three-day cruise. They’re looking for an experience where they leave Cape Canaveral, they go to one of their island options and then come into Nassau on the way back to Canaveral.”

The minister’s comments come following the release of a survey by research company Public Domain that found that 66 percent of Bahamians that participated in a recent poll support Disney’s proposed development for Lighthouse Point.

Nonetheless, D’Aguilar said the poll does not sway the position of the government to approve any proposals.

“I don’t think that the government is in a position yet to make a decision on the project yet, because there is the Disney alternative, and I believe there is an alternative project that’s being touted for that property,” he said.

“So, I think the government is leaving all of its options open and is not coming to any definitive decision certainly not yet, and we’re in the information gathering stage where we learn about who’s interested in the property.

“Obviously, Disney is interested in the property, but we’re interested to hear all the comments that people are putting in the public domain. All that at some stage will be put into the pot and we will be making a decision.”

The privately owned property surrounding Lighthouse Point has been on the market for eight years. D’Aguilar pointed out that although the decision of who purchases the property is ultimately up to the owner of the more than 700 acres, government must approve how the land is developed.

“I always have to emphasize and remind the Bahamian public that the government of The Bahamas does not own that land, that is privately owned property. So ultimately the decision is with the person that owns the property,” he said.

“If we say we sanction this property, then they have to turn around and negotiate the acquisition of the land from the vendor, that’s a twist. I hear a lot of comments in the public domain about ‘This is government property, and the government is selling too much land to the foreigners’; well the foreigners already own that land.”

D’Aguilar said while the government is very interested in hearing the opinions of the public on the Lighthouse Point development debate, it’s important Bahamians get more information on what Disney is proposing.

“What I encourage the Bahamian people to do is to get more information about the project. I looked at the survey, and there seemed to be a lot of people that believe the Disney project may or may not allow Bahamians access to the beaches if they were to get it. I don’t believe that’s what Disney is saying,” he said.

“I just think it’s important for everybody to get all the facts, and it is very, very enlightening to the government what the people’s views are, and there are some that are very for it and some against it, and I’m sure it will be a very difficult decision on who the government will ultimately say yes to.

“We may support both of the projects to go forward, I don’t know. But I think it’s an interesting exercise in hearing all the points of view. Myself, one day I may be leaning one way and then I hear a piece of interesting information, which I then have to verify, and once I verify it, it may cause me to lean another way. But we’re not at the decision stage yet. I think everyone is just counting what they can do or what they would do if they got the property, and I think we should just let that process continue and everybody continue what they’re doing.”

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Poll: Mostly lower income, high school educated Bahamians support Disney project

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