Freeport, Grand Bahama – Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville is excited about the startup of Sunwing Travel Club to the island, saying it ties in well with the government’s plan to awaken Grand Bahama’s ailing economy.
Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie was in Grand Bahama October 17 for the signing of Letter of Intent and Memoranda of Understanding in respect of a major partner arrangement with the Government, Hutchison Whampoa, the largest resort owner on Grand Bahama, and Sunwing Travel, one of the largest travel conglomerates in Canada.
Mr. Christie said the partnership arrangements, together with additional airlift and promotional measures, are designed to turn around Grand Bahama’s ailing tourism economy.
Mr. Darville took note that under this bold initiative one thousand new permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs will be created.
Under the agreement, Hutchison is expected to renovate and reopen the 503 room Reef Village, which will be leased and operated as a five star all inclusive resort by Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts, an affiliate of the Sunwing Travel Group, which has strong marketing clout and operates successfully in Cancun, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba.
While being announced as a major tour operator, the Sunwing group also owns and operates a fleet of 737-800 aircraft, which will operate flights from several cities in Canada to Freeport.
Also, in addition to its flights from Canada, Sunwing, through its affiliate Vacation Express USA Corporation will work with the Ministry of Tourism and the Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board as well as participating hotels to restructure, support and turn the current under performing contracted summer airlift programme from multiple USA cities to Grand Bahama into a success, relieving the Ministry of Tourism of the current heavy financial liabilities.
Also important is the fact that Sunwing has agreed to facilitate and encourage its beneficial shareholder, TUI Travel, the world’s largest travel company, based in Europe, to consider proposals for the inclusion of Grand Bahama in TUI travel destinations, including flights which operate from Europe into Orlando, and to explore direct flights from Europe to Freeport.
Excited about the potential growth in tourism for the island, the Minister for Grand Bahama told a large gathering of business persons assembled in the Great Harbour Cay room of the Grand Lucayan Resort that Grand Bahama is poised for growth and expansion.
“As Minister for Grand Bahama, it is my mandate to work synergistically with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation to promote the advancement of Grand Bahama as a tourism centre and through public, private partnerships, to create business opportunities and sustainable jobs for Grand Bahamians, from East to West Grand Bahama.
“Because of this, it is truly an honour and pleasure to welcome you all here today for the announcement of the opening of the Reef Village in beautiful Grand Bahama,” he told the gathering.
Continuing, Mr. Darville said: “Despite tourism being the premier industry in The Bahamas, over the past few years, we have witnessed a decline in our local tourism industry. However, I am happy to say it is truly a new day in the magic city and thanks to all parties involved, the future for Grand Bahama looks much brighter.”
He reminded those in attendance that as promised in its Charter for Governance, the Christie Administration has taken significant measures, with the help of partners, to revive the primary industry and the economy of Grand Bahama, by reversing the decline in available hotel rooms on the island and aggressively marketing the tourism product both locally and internationally.
“For this reason, we are extremely thankful for this demonstration of investor confidence in Grand Bahama and our working relationship with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Hutchison Whampoa Group of Companies; which will facilitate additional airlift, attract stopover visitors to our shores and provide entrepreneurial opportunities and sustainable jobs for Grand Bahamians,” he said.
While thanking Sunwing Travel, Hutchison and other partners involved in bringing the project to fruition, Minister Darville said it “indicates that the tourism industry on Grand Bahama is poised for growth and expansion.”