Four Seasons Shutdown Hurts Bahamas

Resorts World Bemini Bahamas

The Bahamas' Cabinet Office announced last week that the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay, which opened in 2003, will close May 26. Most of its 500-strong work force will be dismissed in coming days.

According to the Bahamas' Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, the looming shutdown of this sprawling luxury resort poses a "tremendous challenge" to the tourism-dependent economy of Exuma, a central Bahamian district made up of scores of small islands, and that the government is helping "identify the best investor group to acquire and reopen the hotel, golf course and marina."

The islands' economy is reeling from a steep decline in visitors from the U.S., and other big Bahamas resorts have recently announced layoffs or reduced workers' hours as the world economic crisis slashes tourism.

The Four Seasons resort is part of a 500-acre development that includes a marina and Greg Norman-designed golf course. In June 2007, the owner of the master development, EBR Holdings Ltd., was unable to meet its debt obligations and it was placed into receivership.

Receivers have notified the government that talks with various investors that previously signaled an interest in taking over the development were under way, but far from complete.

Four Seasons has said it has agreed to an orderly closure and "it is unlikely that the hotel will reopen as a Four Seasons."

The government will provide the laid-off workers with counseling, job training and career planning, Ingraham said.