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Tourism Minister sees turnaround for Grand Bahama
By Clarence Rolle, MOT
Oct 18, 2012 - 11:59:02 AM

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Freeport, Bahamas -- Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe marked a new tourism agreement that will result in the reopening of the Reef Village at Lucaya as a “new day” for Grand Bahama, and revealed that visitor arrivals for the island are already significantly improved – up 8 percent this year.  

Prime Minister Perry Christie on Wednesday revealed that the Bahamas government, Hutichison Port Holdings, the largest resort owner in Grand Bahama, and Sunwing Travel Group, one of Canada’s largest tour operators, have signed letters of intent and memoranda of understanding forging a historic tourism partnership on Grand Bahama. Among other things, the agreements will bring 1,000 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs through the re-opening of the 500-room Reef Village.  

Hutchison will renovate and reopen the Reef Village, which will be leased and operated as a five-star, all-inclusive resort by Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts, an affiliate of Sunwing Travel Group.  

“It is true that it is a new day in Grand Bahama, a day that makes me very proud as a Grand Bahamian because over the years, I have witnessed so many families broken,”Minister Wilchcombe said. “So many families have had to pack up and leave, loosing homes, loosing all that they had fought for due to unemployment. The tourism numbers in Grand Bahama took a nosedive like nowhere else.”  

When the Progressive Liberal Party left office in 2007, overnight visitor arrivals to Grand Bahama were at 587,000, Minister Wilchcombe said.  

“Last year, we saw it plummet to 180,000 less, a significant drop of 69 percent,” he said. “I am happy to report that tourism is now on the increase. We are seeing an increase in Grand Bahama of 14 percent. Nationally, it is up 8 percent, and we will certainly exceed 5 million tourists again this year.”  

Minister Wilchcombe said the prime minister focused on revitalizing Grand Bahama after the Progressive Liberal party won general elections this year. He said the prime minister wanted to revive tourism on the island. He recognizeded the prime minister and his special advisor Sir Baltron Bethel for making the historic Reef Village deal possible.

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