Baha Mar's $300m Spend Aids Nassau 'Renaissance'


A top tourism executive yesterday described Baha Mar's $300m water park as the latest element in Nassau/Paradise Island's "renaissance" as a tourism destination.

Fred Lounsberry, president of the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board, told Tribune Business that the mega resort's latest investment was "nothing but great news" for The Bahamas since it would refresh the tourism product with a new, exciting attraction.

"Overall it's great news and very exciting for the destination," he said of the Heads of Agreement signed between Baha Mar and the government. "It represents incremental business for all types of businesses. Along with them adding a whole a new attraction, Baha Bay, and the other added features for dining, it's nothing but great news for the destination.

"You can look at the numbers on arrivals and occupancy, and we have had a steady incline for the last few years along with the addition of Baha Mar. But the early fears expressed by other hotel operators were that it would have affected all of the resorts, and that Baha Mar would have taken visitors away from the other properties. This has not been the case at all. Everyone has had great business for the last few years."

Mr Lounsberry reiterated tourism industry optimism that the recent Hurricane Dorian-related fall-off in bookings was a temporary dip "Hopefully we will regain what we lost in October and September, and get back on our steady incline upwards in all visitor statistics, once we get past the negative feedback, that is.

"But now this Baha Mar announcement is good, and gives us good news to talk about over the next few years. All of this, and the renovations said to take place at the Melia as a part of this new announcement from Baha Mar, I would have to say the destination has gone though a renaissance."

Mr Lounsberry explained that Baha Mar had been one element in New Providence's transformation as a tourism destination, pointing to its contribution alongside other investments such as The Pointe and its Margaritaville-branded resort that is due to open next summer.

"But it really all started with the opening of the new airport, along with the roadwork repairs and other infrastructural upgrades, along with all of the changes and additions at Atlantis, especially in them bringing in all of the Bahamian restaurants on property," Mr Lounsberry said. "There was just a lot of things over the past few years that has brought the destination new improvements."

He rejected concerns that Baha Mar's development of a water park would reduce differentiation between Nassau's two mega resorts, given that Atlantis already has such a facility. "Not at all," Mr Lounsberry said.

"If anything it's going to bring people back. These amenities are primarily for the resort guests. It's just an addition to Baha Mar that will give visitors yet another reason to come to Baha Mar as well as broaden their options when thinking about coming to The Bahamas. Repeat visitors are a big part of any destination."

Recalling his experience of working in Orlando, he said water parks were "very popular features for resorts" with Disney having three to four such venues alone.

Carlton Russell, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association's president, praised Baha Mar's expansion as "yet another example of the faith and value investors place in The Bahamas as a premier tourism destination".

"Our tourism product continues to improve thanks to the substantive investments of tourism stakeholders such as Baha Mar," he said, "product enhancement such as infrastructure improvements; the transformation of our cruise port; imminent build of new marinas and ancillary developments on Paradise Island; new developments along Cable Beach and downtown Nassau.

"Hotel property upgrades and refurbishments in New Providence and many Family Islands continue to propel this destination to new heights of quality product delivery. The injection of investor dollars, and the creation of a substantial number of new jobs, is particularly exciting and necessary at this time with many income streams adversely affected post-Dorian. We welcome and applaud the continued enrichment of our overarching tourism offering with this Baha Mar expansion."

Arinthia Komolafe, the Democratic National Alliance's (DNA) leader, yesterday said Baha Mar's expansion "gives hope to many unemployed or underemployed Bahamians, and the potential to boost the economy of The Bahamas is always positive news".

"On the heels of the International Monetary Fund's downward revision of its projected GDP growth for The Bahamas to 0.9 percent from 1.8 percent, and to -0.6 percent from 1.7 percent (for 2020), we need as much economic stimuli as possible," she added.

The Tribune
October 18, 2019