GBPA must bend over backwards to accommodate Electra America Hospitality Group

Dear Editor,

Grand Bahamians are both happy and cautiously optimistic about the pending sale of the state-owned Grand Lucayan resort to Electra America Hospitality Group for $100 million.

This investment group is coming to Freeport with deep pockets.

Personally, I am relieved that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has entered into an agreement to sell the beleaguered property to a reputable hotelier, rather than to the “numbers boys”, as was rumored on the ground on Grand Bahama.

The unsubstantiated rumors on the ground were that the “numbers boys” were eyeing the casino. If true, their acquisition of the resort would’ve been an unmitigated disaster.

Electra America has billions in assets and an impeccable track record in the hospitality industry. The group’s willingness to pump $300 million into the redevelopment of the rundown property speaks volumes of its faith in the Grand Bahama economy, something that many Bahamian investors with deep pockets have refused to do.

I was pleased with Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper’s announcement of Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) being rebuilt into a world-class facility, which is critical to the success of the new Grand Lucayan resort.

GBIA has the potential to become the next Lynden Pindling International Airport.

It now seems as if everything is setting up right for the rebirth of the “magic city”. But there’s one important factor that must not be overlooked by the Davis administration — the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s (GBPA) massive role in ensuring that Electra America Hospitality Group succeeds in Freeport.

This new development may be the biggest investment news in the tourism sector for Freeport in two decades.

If this venture falls flat on its face, Grand Bahama may become another Mayaguana or Crooked Island; no disrespect intended to those Family Islands.

Freeport is supposed to be the nation’s second city, yet it has been overtaken by Abaco, Bimini and Exuma, with Andros and Eleuthera now breathing down hard on its neck.

The GBPA should lower or outright eliminate whatever taxes and fees it has toward the prospective buyers of the resort, as the hue and cry of many investors to Grand Bahama has been the exorbitant costs of doing business in Freeport.

The narrative that it is cost prohibitive to do business in Freeport will become much louder, now that the Grand Bahama Power Company has been given permission by the GBPA to increase its electric rate to its consumers.

The GBPA, it seems, plays the role of the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority in Grand Bahama.

With a projected 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, Electra America Hospitality Group has to succeed, as these much-needed jobs will give Freeport a massive shot in the arm. This cannot be emphasized enough.

While I am truly grateful for Freeport’s industrial sector, the closure of the Royal Oasis Resort in 2004 and Breaker’s Cay and the Grand Lucayan in 2016 have shown us the importance of a robust tourism sector in being the main engine of the economy.

Many women, who are, in most cases, the breadwinners of hundreds of households in Grand Bahama, eke out a living in tourism.

The collapse of this vital industry has coincided with this demographic falling deep into poverty.

Loyal supporters of the Free National Movement, Democratic National Alliance and Coalition of Independents must set aside their political differences and work with the PLP administration to ensure that this investment succeeds.

Opposition supporters must resist the temptation to see this deal fall through, just to score a political brownie point.

At the end of the day, far too many Grand Bahamians are living below the poverty line, while wealthy politicians and their cronies are financially set.

If Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis is able to lead the charge in the resurgence of the “magic city”, he would gain my fandom. But he must encourage the GBPA to do everything possible to see that this deal succeeds.

Kevin Evans

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