Freeport, Grand Bahama -
As speculation grows that the Royal Oasis
Hotel is under consideration to be bought by major investors, namely Sol
Kerzner, owner of Atlantis or even the Hutchison Whampoa group,
Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace could not confirm the
Talks of a possible sale are reportedly the reason for the increase
of businesses opening at the International Bazaar and while
Vanderpool-Wallace encouraged more persons to show confidence in the
economy, he said that there is "nothing that he could tell us about at
this time" about either of the rumoured buyers or anyone else.
Shop owners, straw-vendors and workers at the International Bazaar
have for some time been agitating for the reopening of the Royal Oasis
Hotel to breathe life back into the once popular shopping and
According to International Bazaar Owners Association (IBOA)
President Chris Paine, during an earlier interview shop owners were
being encouraged to make repairs to their buildings to increase business
and inspire others to establish business.
Out of the 85 stores that were opened prior to the closure of the
hotel, only a mere 38 remained open in July of last year.
Now a sign at the entrance of the Bazaar boasts that 37 new stores
and restaurants have opened, signalling a possible financial turnaround
in the Grand Bahama economy.
The hope, however, that the hotel will be reopening in the near
future seems to be short-lived.
The Tourism Minister noted this but added that there is much being
done to improve Grand Bahama's tourism product. He also thanked those
directly and indirectly involved for making the progress happen.
"People may be surprised to find that for five days in a row or not
so long ago the Our Lucaya Hotel ran 100 percent full and we are
continuing to add more product here and add more ways to let people know
what Grand Bahama is all about and at a reasonable price," he said.
Vanderpool-Wallace also commented on the failure of Club Grand Bahama
which was launched last year to redefine the island as an all inclusive
"There is no question that our initial attempt to make sure that the
cost of coming to Grand Bahama is much more competitive is bearing some
fruit, but until we solve that problem fully, many people have decided
that they do not want to come to Grand Bahama," he said, adding that
progress is being made in that area.
"We would really like to thank the persons in the industry here from
ground transportation upward. They have all come together to make the
island much more competitive and we are delighted to see that it is
Meanwhile many remain hopeful that something will be done with the
Royal Oasis property. It was suggested by some for the property to be
turned into a much needed hospital for the Grand Bahama community or
even a school.
The Royal Oasis has been closed since September 2004 and its owners,
Harcourt had revealed that they were finalizing a deal with a major
international casino and hotel operator to run the 427.5-acre resort
At last report, Harcourt was in discussions with Foxwood Development
Company (FDC), operators of the world's largest casino, to do just that.
Back in April 2007, Foxwood said it was investigating the possibility
of managing the Royal Oasis if Harcourt purchased the property.
"The company intends to make significant capital investment in order
to improve the hotel and facilities at the Royal Oasis and create a high
quality tourist destination.
"When reopened, the resort will bring major benefits to the local
area through increased tourism and employment," a Harcourt release read.
Once extended and renovated, Harcourt noted that the resort would be
home to a new hotel, casino, convention/meeting facilities, spa, fitness
centre, food and beverage, retail, recreation and a host of other
amenities. The golf courses will also be restored to their former glory.
The new owners estimated that up to 1,000 people would eventually be
employed across the varied disciplines to construct, refurbish, manage
and operate the resort.
However since that time nothing has been done.
Photo: Kirk Edison