During the Grand Bahama Business Outlook conference, Perry Christie, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, announced that last week the Grand Lucayan resort complex has a preferred buyer, with an improved offer in the works. Christie stated that he spoke with the buyer last week and the discussions were ‘very positive’ after the offer to Hutchison Whampoa was improved.

During the conference, Christie was the keynote speaker and discussed the negotiations, stating the following: “The Hutchison Lucayan properties were placed on the market for sale, and negotiations were underway with a preferred bidder prior to the closure due to Hurricane Matthew. We are now in ongoing discussions with Hutchison and Sunwin, the previous operator of Memories, on the renovations and reopening of Memories, while simultaneously dealing with a buyer for the purchase of the entire Lucaya resort complex and potential operators for the hotels and casino.”

The buyer was not made known but it is most likely the Wynn Group. The Wynn Group has previously shown interest in creating a condo complex in New Providence at Goodman’s Bay. The Wynn Group of Canada, not to be confused with Steve Wynn’s Wynn Resorts, was identified earlier as a member of a consortium potentially in talks to purchase for the entire Grand Lucayan complex, which includes the Treasure Bay Casino, with an offer to purchase set at $110 million.

The previous tenant of the hotel and operator at Hutchison, Memories, is reportedly working with Hard Rock International in the bid for hotel/casino gaming partners. Memories have stated that the intransigence of Hutchinson due to repairs related to Hurricane Matthew was the reason the company decided to leave back in January. When Memories left, between 400 and 500 locals were left without employment.

Beyond Grand Bahama Island, other areas of the Bahamas were also affected by the storm’s damage and subsequent business closures. Tour operator Vacation Express had to withdraw from providing services due to room inventory being so low. This led to 30% of the tourism market leaving the area as the tour operator had previously brought in tourists from thirteen cities inside the United States during the summer months.

PM Christie further stated during the conference that the insurance claims of Hutchison due to Hurricane Matthew are still unsettled which has complicated the process of restoration for the property. Despite the issues, Christie is optimistic that the property will sell, stating that during the teleconference with the prospective buyer, the offer to Hutchison had been expanded, increasing the level of investments.

Reportedly, the operation of the casino and hotels will involve four brands that are known in the industry, with Christie stating that he is speaking out on the matter now as he feels the deal is at a stage where it has real potential.

Christie stated further that the buyer’s intention is to add more attractions to the property and has plans to discuss with stakeholders on how to turn Lucayan into a lively destination. Christie pointed out that he is excited after the discussions because he feels for the first time that an opportunity is there, with the level of interest expressed by the buyer that will integrate into the tourism mix of Grand Bahama with wonderful brands.

Despite the revelation of the potential buyer’s plans, Christie did not mention how Hutchison Whampoa feels about the potential deal and if they are ready to sell based on price and terms that will be accepted by the buyer. 1,500 guest rooms from the Grand Bahama hotel inventory were removed due to Hurricane Matthew damage and Memories is fully closed. Only 200 guest rooms remain open at the Grand Lucayan in the section known as Lighthouse Point with the hurricane completely shutting down Breaker’s Cay.

The closures are affecting the Grand Bahama tourism economy, with a negative impact in regards to employment, arrivals of stopover tourists as well as passengers of cruise ships and Port Lucaya Marketplace businesses.