‘Black eye’ for Grand Bahama

By Ashley Penn, Reporter

Today’s planned opening of the long-awaited Memories Grand Bahama resort has been cancelled.

There was confusion yesterday as to what was actually happening at the resort, with initial claims that the flights from Canada were cancelled, and others claiming visitors who had booked to become the resort’s first guests were being offered alternative accommodation.

As late as Wednesday afternoon the Ministry of Tourism on Grand Bahama contacted The Freeport News to organize media coverage of the first flight from Canada due in at the airport at 3.30 p.m.

However, despite an announcement by Dr. Michael Darville, the Minster for Grand Bahama, that Memories would be open for business today, The Freeport News understands its doors are closed because the final touches on the facility have not yet been completed.

Adding to the confusion, an email to The Freeport News from the Ministry of Tourism also claimed media coverage of the arrival was cancelled because “Sunwing Travel Group wishes not to have a big fanfare yet.”

A disappointed Canadian tourist told The Freeport News yesterday that he was unclear on the way forward for the island’s latest development.

The concerned guest said he booked his vacation scheduled to begin today through next Thursday at the five star beachfront property, but was told by the Sunwing Group that the resort would not be opened in time.

However, he says he was offered a stay at the neighboring Grand Lucayan hotel, which is slated to host the remaining group of persons who made reservations for their stay at the resort.

The visitor also said Sunwing would not change his hotel vouchers to the Grand Lucayan Resort but told him to use the voucher that said Memories Resort.

It is unclear at the moment on when the long-awaited Memories Grand Bahama resort - a project which is seen as a symbol of a revitalization of the island’s economy - will now be open for business.

Last night, Peter Turnquest, the MP for East Grand Bahama, said there was a cause for concern as he received information that contrary to popular belief, the hiring of staff at the facility was yet to be finalized.

“We understand that the Memories Blue Diamond Resort is going to be delayed at least two weeks due to a number of reasons. The one that concerns us the most is the understanding that the contracting and hiring of the staff has not yet been finalized and that there has been no training of the staff to date for an opening that was supposed to have been today on the 16th,” he said.  

“That to us signals a significant issue with respect to the project and we certainly call on the Minister for Grand Bahama who gave the assurance recently that the project was going to be opened on time to give an update as to the true status of the project and when we can realistically expect for these thousands of employees that were promised to be engaged with this project to be in works.”

The MP also said he is uneasy about the project’s position from the view of investors and visitors, which he says can inflict a “black eye” on the resort’s reputation.

“We are concerned about the status of the project from an investor’s point of view as well as from a customer’s point of view because obviously we don’t want the project to start off with a black eye or a bad reputation,” Turnquest added.

He also highlighted the importance of the swift action that he says is needed to ensure its timely opening.

“The hope of the tourism industry is attached to this property at the moment and this is the one potential bright spot that we have. It is very critical that this project gets up and running as quickly as possible and as smoothly as possible,” Turnquest concluded.

In search of further answers from the owner of the all inclusive resort, The Freeport News made several attempts to the Sunwing Group but was unable to receive a statement regarding an update of the scheduled opening set for today.

The Ministry of Tourism refused to comment.

Published  Thursday, January 16, 2014