As work begins on Baha Mar, the largest resort development in the history of the Caribbean, hospitality leaders in the region have set their sights on the new airlift opportunities that will be created.
Butch Stewart, Founder and Chairman, Sandals International, says if the $3.4 billion development is successful then other luxury resorts in the Bahamas will also reap the rewards of tapping new markets through airlift.
He said: “I think Baha Mar, if they do a good job, will create more airlift, then everybody has more opportunity to get people from Maine or Timbuktu that are not coming now.
“The more the merrier, just regulate good so that it’s good quality, it’s not that cheap destination.”
On Monday the breaking-ground ceremony took place at the 1,000-acre Baha Mar site on Nassau’s Cable Beach. The project will be financed and largely built by Beijing, and the resort, gaming and entertainment complex, slated to open in late 2014, will boast a roster of some of the most respected names in luxury hospitality.
These include Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Morgans Hotel Group, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and a Casino Hotel, creating a total of 2,250 new rooms within four spectacular new hotels.
(Baha Mar State Dinner, with principles of Baha Mar and the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham)
Although the resort is aimed primarily at the North American market, which makes up the vast majority of tourist visitors to the Bahamas, the world-class facilities are also expected to attract a global clientele, including emerging markets such as Brazil and China.
It is also estimated that Baha Mar will contribute an additional 10 percent growth in the Bahamian GDP, and almost $1 billion to the local economy in its first year in operation. It will employ an estimated 8,000 staff.
As the ceremonial address, Baha Mar’s Chairman and CEO, Sarkis Izmirlian, said: “Baha Mar represents an unprecedented alliance of powerhouses in the hospitality, financial and construction industries, and signals a shifting of the sands for the travel industry. Baha Mar also represents the birth of a new generation of destination resorts that will compete on a world scale.”
“Baha Mar, born from a singular vision, is surprisingly breathtaking in its magnitude. The vision of Baha Mar started more than five years ago with a plan to deliver an authentic Caribbean experience which combined the essence and spirit of The Bahamas with the distinction of luxury resorts,” he added.
“The world famous, crystal clear Bahamian water, stunning white sand beaches, and authentically friendly people are the foundation upon which we will build a unique destination, filled with vibrant experiences in entertainment, gaming, hospitality and service.”
Don Robinson, President of Baha Mar, said the resort’s ambitious scope aims to recapture the public’s imagination and attract tourists who have abandoned the Bahamas for other destinations.
“The vision was a large destination resort that would drive visitation. Anything smaller became less of an ability to increase the market. It needed to be large enough on the world stage that it could significantly drive demand,” he told Associated Press before the ceremony.
Work on the project begins as tourism in the Caribbean starts to enjoy an upswing following two tough years caused by the global downturn.
Hotel room revenue in the region rose about 3 percent last year, compared with 2009, according to hospitality think tank STR.
Baha Mar will also include the largest convention centre in The Bahamas, with 200,000 square feet of space, which can also double as a world-class entertainment venue and sports arena. A new 100,000 square-foot casino will be the largest in the Caribbean, offering gaming a experience to rival Las Vegas.
Other amenities will include a 50,000 square-foot retail village, a 20-acre eco water park and pool experience, and three unique spas, including the largest spa in the Caribbean.
The planned 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course will be the only true championship course in The Bahamas.
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