While formal discussions for the purchase of Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) have not yet started, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar suggested that, given the owners’ “string of bad luck” with the airport, they may consider selling the airport.
“As I’ve said in all of the interactions with the press, purchasing the airport is a fairly straightforward process. The operator of that airport, Hutchison Ports, has really had a string of bad luck. That airport has been hit two or three times in as many years. So, they’ve invested a lot of money and unfortunately, have been significantly impacted by numerous hurricanes,” D’Aguilar said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“So, they are a little weary of it, they’re tired of it. And so, I think they’ve probably reached the point where they would consider exiting that business and the natural acquirer of that airport would be the government. But I always tell the Bahamian people, buying it is the easy part. It’s what to do when you acquire it and that’s what we need to think through.”
Destroyed during the passage of Category 5 Hurricane Dorian in September, GBIA – which is owned by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and CK Hutchison Holdings, has not received international commercial flights since.
Progressive Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper originally suggested that the government purchase the airport, given the slow pace the owners seem to be taking to rebuild it. The airport sustained an estimated $40 million in damage.
Earlier this month, D’Aguilar confirmed that the government was considering purchasing the airport. Asked yesterday if the government would purchase it with the intention to have it sold soon after in the same manner of the Grand Lucayan resort, D’Aguilar said no.
“No, no, no. If the government were to acquire it, the government would hold it as it does every other airport in the country and it would probably enter into some sort of relationship similar to the one at Lynden Pindling International Airport, where a company was formed and we would go out and raise the funds to build it and then we would get a professional manager to manage it,” he said.
“I think we’d probably adopt that model, but we’re in the process of thinking through the acquisition. How would it work? How would we make it work? Because ultimately, we don’t want to take on an airport and then create another massive burden to the state. So, we’re trying to think through the business model to limit its impact on a recurring basis on the taxpayer.
“We’re still in the initial discussions. Everybody is now thinking ‘okay, how would this work, let’s see how it goes’ and trying to get the entire transaction as confidential as possible, because you’re in the negotiation stages and you don’t want to negotiate it in the press.”