“Optimism for Grand Bahama’s Tourism Sector”

Amidst the many reports of devastation and hopelessness on the island of Grand Bahama, there is a measure of optimism and resiliency among stakeholders within the island’s tourism sector.

On Monday, November 7th, 2016, a press conference was held by the Ministry of Tourism, to provide the media and tourism stakeholders with an update on the Grand Bahama tourism product.

Leading the charge was Betty Bethel, Director for the Ministry of Tourism, Grand Bahama Island who said that “The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Obie Wilchcombe is pleased with the recovery efforts that have brought the island to its current state.”

With regards to the resumption of U.S. Pre-Clearance at Grand Bahama International Airport, which is operating presently from sunrise to sunset, Bethel gave the following update: “Flights are arriving daily via American Eagle, originating in Miami; Bahamasair and Silver Airways out of Ft. Lauderdale, along with Delta Connection’s weekly flight from Atlanta. Additionally, the Domestic/Non US Terminal is fully functional.”

Speaking to airlift projections for the winter air season, Bethel acknowledged that “Sunwing Airlines will resume flights from eight Canadian gateways - subject to re-opening of its parent property, Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort.”

With regards to sealift, “Balearia Bahamas Express resumed regular service from Ft. Lauderdale, delivering day-trippers, with effect from Tuesday, October 25th, 2016. Carnival Cruise Lines is on schedule, having returned to the island on November 7th; Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is scheduled for November 16th and Norwegian Cruise Lines for November 22nd, 2016.”

She added that “The Grand Celebration has diverted calls to Bimini and will resume service to Grand Bahama, delivering cruise and stay, as well as day trippers, from West Palm Beach on a date to be confirmed.”

Bethel also announced the opening of key shore excursion experiences, including the Port Lucaya Marketplace, Bahamas Adventures, Pirates Cove Waterpark, Ocean Motion Water Sports and Paradise Cove- offering guests beach and snorkeling experiences in the West; Grand Bahama Nature Tours and the Garden of the Groves- including its featured restaurant, Garden Café; UNEXSO and the Dive In Bar and Grill, Flying Fish Modern Seafood Restaurant, Fish Fry at Smith’s Point, Perfume Factory and the Ruby Golf Course.

Beach access to Lucayan Beach, adjacent to the Port Lucaya Marketplace, however, is temporarily closed for repairs and is scheduled to be re-opened during the week of November 14th.

Room inventory on Grand Bahama is presently on the incline according to Bethel who said, “The 184-room Pelican Bay Hotel and Suites and Canal House Conference Center, the 100-room Royal Islander Hotel, located downtown, Flamingo Bay Hotel- a 68-room water-front hotel, the 31-room Bell Channel Inn, the 31-room Sunrise Resort and Marina, are all open for business.”

Bethel said, “Castaways Resort- while having suffered some damage, continues to operate 80 rooms to accommodate incoming electrical workers for the restoration project, and the Deep Water Cay Resort, located at East Grand Bahama, re-opened on October 17th, 2017.”

While the number of rooms that are presently opened, coupled with the projected mid-November re-openings, amount to just under 900, Bethel added that the 189-room Lighthouse Pointe opened on November 7th, and the185- room Island Seas Resort will re-open on November 18th.

Russell Miller, Chairman of the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board announced that Lighthouse Pointe, which operated as an all-inclusive resort prior to the storm, will now serve as a mixed use product.

Miller said, “Grand Lucayan is going to be all-inclusive as well as leisure travel, becoming one of the first hotels to accept leisure travel back to the island.”

Bethel advised that the relaunch of 1,300 additional rooms will be coming soon with the

274-room all-inclusive Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort, scheduled to re-open on December 17th, 2016.

The 545-room Breakers Cay property at Grand Lucayan is set to come on stream on February 1st, 2017.

The 500-room all-inclusive Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort will relaunch on a date to be determined.

With the resumption of the water and electricity supply, properties, including the 72 room Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina, 30-room Blue Marlin Cove, 7- room Bootle Bay Bone Fish Lodge-located in West End, and the 9-room Bishop’s Bone Fish Lodge – located in High Rock, East Grand Bahama, will re-open.

Bethel said that “350 time-share resort units will come online just in time for the Christmas season.”

As for the Ministry’s events line up for the remainder of 2016, Bethel provided the following update, touching on signature sports, culinary and religious tourism events:

The 30th Annual Conchman Triathlon- which was the Ministry’s first event post-Hurricane Matthew was successfully executed on November 5th.

The 18th Annual Tabernacle High School Basketball Tournament is scheduled for November 23nd- 26th, with visiting players being housed at Lighthouse Pointe.

The 14th Annual Junkanoo Jam Women’s College Basketball Tournament will be held on November 24th-26th, and has been temporarily relocated to Bimini Resorts World from the Grand Lucayan.

The Meeting of the Minds Culinary Fusion Expo 2016, originally planned for November 5th at Pelican Bay, will now be held on November 26th at the Grand Lucayan’s Manor House.

Bringing the 2016 calendar of events to a close will be the X-Treme 13.2 Intracoastal Challenge at Pirates Cove on December 3rd, as scheduled.

Faith Fest 2016 - initially scheduled for October 27th, has since been rescheduled to March 23rd- 25th, 2017.

Bethel added that as the island rebuilds, “The Ministry of Tourism will use this as an opportunity to retool and improve the skill sets of our people in the industry, commencing with a Customer Service Skills Training.”

The training will commence on Monday, November 14th with a group of 140 staff from the Treasure Bay Casino.  

Media Contact: Brooke Grant | Bahamas Ministry of Tourism | bsherman@bahamas.com