Premier now says Fairmont Southampton will re-open in 2024
Developers of the Fairmont Southampton are confident the hotel will open for the 2024 tourist season, the Premier said, although he was unable to confirm when a deal would be finalised to let the renovations begin.
David Burt told the House of Assembly that costs to redevelop Bermuda’s flagship resort, including purchase of the hotel, were believed to have passed $400 million.
He expected to be in a position to provide MPs with information about a government guarantee for the project when they return to Parliament next year.
Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, asked on Friday: “Can the Premier confirm when the final agreement and documents will be executed with regards to the Fairmont Southampton hotel?”
Mr Burt, who is also the Minister of Finance, said: “The work continues to close on the hotel project.
“Nothing would have given me more pleasure than to come here today to confirm the guarantee agreement and table it for the information of the honourable House of Assembly.
“I do believe that the next time that we come back, that will happen.
“I know that the lenders have confirmed their funding and are just working through those particular documents, those things are continuing to progress but I cannot give the honourable member a specific date.
“What I can say is that, the information that I have is the developers are still confident that they will be able to progress the opening of the hotel for the 2024 tourism season, which of course is essential for Bermuda’s tourism recovery.”
He added: “It is a five-party agreement … with the funding now estimated to be north of $400 million in total investment when combined with the purchase of the hotel, the redevelopment and the working capital, which is necessary in order to do that.
“That cost, of course, has escalated due to global pricing increases, which of course add additional complexity.”
Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, asked how it would be possible to open the hotel – which shuttered in October 2020 – in under 18 months when planning permissions and “all the work that’s going to be done” are factored in.
Mr Burt said: “We are working with teams who have developed hotels successfully throughout the world and the information that they’ve provided to us is that their construction timeline for this particular project is 14 months.”
He added: “Yes, they are still confident that the hotel will reopen in 2024; that is what the Government is working towards and we are doing everything to make sure, with the parties, that we get this agreement finalised because nothing would give me more pleasure [than] to make sure this hotel breaks ground.”
Mr Burt said in February that he expected the hotel to be open in the summer of 2023 with government support and this was followed by an announcement in March that an agreement had been reached with Westend Properties, owners of the resort, confirming the Government’s support for the “vital“ redevelopment of the site.
Mr Burt added that the arrangement was set out in a heads of terms document approved by Cabinet.
The Premier told the House on March 25 he was “confident that this transaction will close next month as intended and construction will commence shortly thereafter”.
Karim Alibhai, the founder and principal of Gencom, the parent company of Westend Properties, told The Royal Gazette in April that renovations would ideally begin between June and August this year with a view to reopening by autumn, 2023.
Tax concessions of at least $121 million are expected to be given to the hotel owners over 15 years.
MPs heard in May that the Government will provide a guarantee of up to $75 million, which at that time represented 21 per cent of the project’s then costs of $376 million.
When asked last week what caused the delay, Mr Burt said: “At a point in time when there is surging global inflation, economic uncertainty, increasing interest rates, these are things which are causing a challenge.”
He said he was unable to provide a timeline for when shovels would hit the ground but added: “In order to meet the objective for this to take place and open the hotel in time for the 2024 tourism season, construction work would have to commence in the first quarter of 2023.”
The Premier highlighted that when asked about the Government guarantee a few months ago he said there was no change to its value.
He added: “The provisions that we have negotiated have been fully documented and are awaiting sign-off from the inter-creditor agreement with all of the parties involved.”
A message on the Fairmont Southampton website said that “substantial pre-construction work has been completed”.