Baha Mar Set to Transform Bahamas Tourism Economy
Just how important is this $3.5 billion dollar project to the Bahamas? It means billions in taxes, thousands of jobs and may change how people perceive this Caribbean nation.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
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With just 14 months to opening Baha Mar is officially entering its ‘pre-opening’ phase. Topped off and taking shape, the mega project is set to financially transform the entire country of the Bahamas and promises to be a big boon to tourism.
The massive development which has been in the works for more than a decade is budgeted at $3.5 billion and is entirely reinventing the Cable Beach area, which was popular in the 1960s but faded away as other destinations gained popularity in other Caribbean nations as well as in the Bahamas itself (Maybe you have heard of a little resort called Atlantis?). Even the airport got a $400 million makeover to make the destination more appealing to carriers. But more on that later.
Meanwhile the project is now two-thirds through the construction process and its owner, Chairman and CEO Sarkis Izmirlian shared with Hotel Interactive yesterday at a media event many more details on what this project will be like when it opens in December 2014.
“While the world was licking wounds during the Great recession we got ready for the recovery. We recruited executives from companies such as Disney, Caesars and Four Seasons and architects from companies like Wynn and [MGM Resort’s] Bellagio,” said Izmirlian. “This country was starving for growth. They saw projects all over the world and nothing happened in Bahamas for many years. This was an opportunity that was desperately needed.”
Looking to combine the luxury of Monte Carlo with the excitement of Las Vegas all on a 3,000 foot ocean front beach, the approximately 1,000 acre Baha Mar will have 2,200 guestrooms in four hotels. The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel will have 1,000 rooms and a 100,000 square foot casino the largest in the Caribbean and on par with properties such as Palazzo which is about 105,000 square feet. The Rosewood at Baha Mar will feature 200 rooms including 87 residences and five luxury villas while the Mondrian at Baha Mar will have 300 rooms including 107 private residences and a roof top bar. Finally the Grand Hyatt will feature 700 rooms including 85 private residences.
There will also be 30 plus restaurants, bars and nightclubs (including one designed by rocker and Bahamian resident Lenny Kravitz), Jack Nicklaus golf club and 18-hole course, full service spa from ESPA, 14 pools, a water eco-park, Bahamian art gallery, 200,000 square feet of meeting space and a 2,000 seat performing arts center/sports arena.
In all there is 3.3 million square feet of building area, according to Baha Mar’s President Tom Dunlap.
It’s the largest integrated resort construction project in the western hemisphere that required $130 million of prep work to move buildings and highways. The Prime Minister’s office was even moved to make way for this project. But he was Ok with that as the project is expected to create 5,000 jobs at the resort and other 7,000 indirect jobs and inject about $1 billion into the local economy in just the first year.
That’s enough cash to increase the nation’s GDP by 12 percent. Globally travel accounts for an average of 10 percent GDP. The project is also expected to add 430,000 stop over visits to the island,a 30 percent increase, and generate $5.5 billion in taxes over 20 years. Plus the jobs will inject another $12 billion into the economy over the next two decades.
“We knew if we were going to do it right we would have to compete on world scale. The resort must have unique story and soul,” said Izmirlian.
But for the project to work the marketing not only has to be successful but they need the airlift, and more cruise ships too.
Izmirlian said his team has been having conversations with major airlines. Carriers from Latin America have promised increased service, there will be a weekly direct flight from Russia and one each from Shanghai and Beijing (probably doesn’t hurt that $2.7 billion in project funding came from the Chinese government owned Export-Import Bank of China.). Jet Blue and Delta also are adding flights from key feeder markets such as New York and Chicago and American Airline has dumped prop jets and are flying larger jet aircraft to the Bahamas now. The new airport can now handle A380 aircraft which can bring in more than 500 people in one flight.
Denise Godreau, Chief Marketing Officer: “After 10 years the universe is still aligning and Baha Mar will mark the time before and after. It will be the new gateway destination for the affluent traveler,” said adding; “We are not a faceless corporation or a financial institution. It is one owner and one dream.”