By Dana Niland
Grand Bahama’s biggest resort is being sold — to a unexpected buyer.
Cruise giant Royal Caribbean International, in a joint venture with Mexico’s ITM, has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort.
The deal is expected to transform the resort and develop the harbor in Freeport into a destination product centered around water-based adventure theme parks, according to the government of The Bahamas.
The move comes less than a year after the Bahamas’ government purchased the Grand Lucayan from former owner Hutcinson Whampoa, pledging to save the jobs of the nearly 400 Bahamians who worked at the property “until it was ready to be sold again.”
And that’s precisely what the government did.
“We have done what we said we would do – in the face of much criticism the Government of The Bahamas purchased the Grand Lucayan Resort for $65 million dollars and we said that we would hold it for the shortest period of time and sell it for $65 million dollars – and we have done exactly that,” said Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
“I am pleased to announce to the people of Grand Bahama and to the entire Bahamas that the much-anticipated sale of the 217-acre Grand Lucayan resort has finally been agreed upon,” added D’Aguilar. “The development that will roll out in Grand Bahama over the next 24-36 months will go far in restoring the island’s economy to its former glory days.”
Bahamas Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said the first phase of the new project would entail a $195 million investment, including the $65 million purchase price.
The plan is to both redevelop Freeport Harbor and transform the Grand Lucayan into a theme park that includes a five-star hotel, along with dining, gaming and entertainment options.
“The redevelopment of Freeport Harbor is anticipated to include significant increase in cruise ship arrivals, bringing an additional approximately two million passengers annually, with the addition of multiple cruise lines calling on Grand Bahama,” Thompson said.
In a statement, Royal Caribbean said the decision like a “perfect fit.”
“This is an incredible project and I want to thank the Bahamian Government for giving us this opportunity in Grand Bahama,” said Russell Benford, vice president of government relations for the Americas at Royal Caribbean. “We are honored to have been chosen from some really great people and companies around the world for this project.”
“We understand what Grand Lucayan means to the Government of The Bahamas and to the people of Grand Bahama and so you have our commitment that we will do this project right and we will do right by the government and the people of The Bahamas,” he said. “We build spectacular world class products and we will bring that same excellence and dedication here to this project in Grand Bahama.”
The move is being undertaken in a venture with ITM, a Mexican travel giant behind several major cruise ports in the region, including Costa Maya and the Port of Roatan in Honduras, among others.
The move also reinforces the Bahamas’ push to solidify its position as a global leader in the cruise industry, coming a month after the announcement of a high-profile plan to transform the Port of Nassau.