With the global cruise industry at a standstill, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said while he believes the investors of the major cruise projects planned for the Family Islands and Grand Bahama are still interested, he believes they are “less important now” than they were at the start of the year.
At least three cruise projects valued at approximately $800 million now hang in the balance as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the docking of cruise ships around the world.
“All of these major projects in the Family Islands and in Grand Bahama were related to the cruise industry. And so the cruise industry as you are well aware is at a complete stop and all of the cruise companies are fighting for survival. They are circling the wagons and I would presume that their number one mission right now is to save their core business. Their core business is obviously cruise ships and getting people on cruise ships,” D’Aguilar told Guardian Business.
“The next item in their list of responsibility are probably the destinations which they were going to create. So I think whereas pre-COVID-19 their core business was humming along beautifully, so it allowed them to say, how do we deepen our revenue chain by adding addition features? So, let’s go and look at building destinations where we can in essence have a greater part of this vertical experience, where you get on my boat and go to my destination then obviously I will reap more. But they are focused on getting on the boat.”
The projects in question are the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) project at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, valued at up to $400 million; Royal Caribbean International’s project with the ITM Group for the redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahama, valued at $300 million; and Carnival Corporation’s development of a $100 million cruise port on Grand Bahama.
Asked whether he believed these projects are now on the back burner for the investors, D’Aguilar said, “I would say that they will tell you these projects are still very important to them, but I think as just an armchair politician looking into their business, I would think they were really fighting to get their ships started, getting people on their ships.
“I just think that we are less important now than we were in March and so understandably they are focused on their core business. Now that’s not withstanding on the Grand Lucayan, Royal Caribbean transaction. You know they have partnered with ITM Group and I have to say that we’re talking with them two to three times a week and it’s still seemingly an interest they have. The terms may have shifted a bit but there is still active dialogue going on, and with the grace of God we will bring this to a conclusion. But we signed this deal with them the first week of March. It feels like 17 years ago, so much has transpired since then and obviously everybody is now in a very, very different position today than they were four months ago.”
In April, Royal Caribbean International said it remains committed to The Bahamas and is now more fervent in its plan to grow the number of cruise visitors to this destination; but that it was reviewing all of its projects to re-evaluate plans and timelines.