FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — The government’s announcement yesterday that it has chosen Electra Hospitality Group to purchase the Grand Lucayan resort for $100 million has left some Grand Bahamians feeling more hopeful than they have been in a long while.
“Selling the hotel is a major plus for the economy of Freeport and Grand Bahama, especially the Port Lucaya Marketplace,” said Gordon Higgs, 70, a woodcarver at Port Lucaya, which is opposite the Grand Lucayan.
“Before Hurricane Matthew, this place was prosperous. Now, we only depend on cruise ship passengers. I praise God for the ships arriving and the economy getting back together day by day.”
Higgs said the reopening of the Grand Lucayan will be “excellent” for the island.
He said it will create more jobs.
“It will benefit everyone, not just the vendors in the area,” Higgs said.
“When the straw vendors make it, they pass it on to the smaller shops and so, everyone wins.”
Nikeshia Saunders, 44, a second-generation straw vendor at Port Lucaya, applauded the government for securing a buyer.
“It means more business around here, which will be excellent,” Saunders said.
“When the resort closed, sales went down. After it was purchased and it turned into Memories hotel, business was really good in the Port Lucaya Marketplace.”
Saunders said business took a downward turn in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which damaged the resort. She said it has yet to fully rebound.
“It has been real slow because we depend on the hotel for more traffic, and we don’t have many cruise ship passengers,” Saunders said.
David Long, 71, an avid fisherman and resident of Grand Bahama, said the government needs to move on from the Grand Lucayan.
He said it should tear the resort down instead.
“It’s been sitting there for too long,” Long said.
“… It bugs me every couple of months when someone says, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a sale by the end of the week,’ or, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a sale by the end of the month.’ Nothing ever happens.”
He said he wishes the new buyer of the resort luck.
Long said the island needs to focus on improving its tourism services to make tourists more willing to visit.
“With all of the garbage and all of the crap along the road, if I were a tourist, I would get on the next plane and the hell out of here,” he said.
“I really would.”
Yesterday’s announcement on the Grand Lucayan sale was a significant one for Grand Bahama.
The Minnis administration bought the Grand Lucayan from Hutchison Whampoa in August 2018 for $65 million.
In March 2020, the government signed a heads of agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the ITM Group for the $50 million purchase of the resort.
Royal Caribbean and ITM promised to invest more than $300 million in the redevelopment of the property, and construction of a cruise port; however, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed and changed the terms of the agreement.
The Davis administration canceled the deal late last year because it was “not in the best interest” of the Bahamian people.
Electra has committed to invest $300 million into redeveloping Grand Lucayan.
Construction and relaunch of the resort are expected to create approximately 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, according to Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper.
James Sarles, 65, a realtor and broker, said yesterday’s announcement is a “major, major step” for the island.
“We’ve been waiting a long time and really since Matthew,” he said.
“This hotel has been closed and it has affected the economy greatly. What I heard today is extremely encouraging. It’s big news.”
Sarles pointed to recent developments, like the new Doctors Hospital, and upcoming developments, like Carnival’s cruise port.
He said it appears Grand Bahama is rebounding.
“For the first time in 10 years – and I’ve been a real estate broker for 25 years – there’s hope here,” Sarles said.
“There are real opportunities here that’s going to be great for Grand Bahama.”