Digby mayor Ben Cleveland says selling the Pines to a private owner may be the answer.
“The province has to make sure the future of the Pines is secure,” said Cleveland. “Maybe a sale to private industry would be the solution, but there needs to be a guarantee of continued operation.”
While securing such a guarantee from a buyer may be difficult, he suggests the province could maintain a part ownership to ensure continued operation.
The mayor said when he first heard Monday’s announcement of a $3.1 million government investment in the Signature Resorts, he thought “great, they’re going to make some needed improvements to the infrastructure. But then I thought we should be cautious, the resorts are still on the market.”
He said there is uncertainly about what a sale would mean to the community and to employees at the Pines.
Municipality of Digby warden Linda Gregory said she was excited by the news of provincial money for the Pines.
“I’m just pleased.”
However, she said she is not in favour of a sale of the Pines, and using the small fix-up to make the resorts more appealing to prospective buyers.
“The (province) should be keeping them. The Pines has made them money. It’s a valuable tourism asset. We do need the Pines,” the warden said.
“On the whole, they are the ones who do the best management.”
The province has said the investment of $3.1 million will enable the resorts to open for the 2012 season, help secure jobs, and make the resorts more attractive to potential buyers.
Four companies have expressed interest in the province’s Signature Resorts, but the province has not released details of their proposals.
The companies who indicated an interest in one or more of the resorts are New Castle Hotels and Resorts, which currently operates the resorts under a 10-year management contract; Cape Breton Resorts, which operates three resorts on Cape Breton Island; Pacrim Hospitality, billed as one of Canada’s largest privately-owned hotel management and development companies; and United Gulf Developments of Halifax.
Economic Development Minister Percy Paris has suggested one option is sale of the resorts to private interests, and he has not ruled out closing one or more of the resorts.
Keltic, although operated by the province, is owned by the federal government.
An unofficial source at the Pines says the Digby resort had over $4 million in revenue last year, and returned about half of that to the region in wages.
The main resort building is located within town boundaries and is a contributor to Digby’s tax base.