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News : Grand Bahama Last Updated: May 7, 2015 - 7:57:38 AM

A ray of hope?
By Genea Noel, The Freeport News
Apr 19, 2010 - 8:49:09 PM

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Freeport, Grand Bahama - (The Freeport News) 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 reports.

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 entertainment arena.

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 tourist destination

"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 happening."

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 property.

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.

Article SOURCE

Photo: Kirk Edison

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