Baha Mar Raises Hotel Branding Concerns


Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said that he is not satisfied with the hotel brand arrangements that Baha Mar has made to date.

Last month Ingraham expressed concerns about how Baha Mar would be branded and how it will fill so many new rooms, when for a second year it has had to temporarily close one of its hotels because of low demand.

Since then Baha Mar announced partnerships with three hotel brands.

Asked if those announcements appeased his concerns, Ingraham said,"It does not at all."

"If you recall when the Baha Mar deal was announced there was supposed to be a partnership with Harrah's, a major casino hotel company,"Ingraham told reporters yesterday during a tour of the Albany project."Harrah's was going to put in over$200 million in cash as its equity... All that I've read in the newspaper so far talks about who is going to manage the hotels[for Baha Mar].
It is critical for there to be equity partners-owners who are in the hotel business and who are major players, not managers.

"Managers come dime a dozen. You see them all the time. They are the easiest thing to pick up in the world-managers-because they have nothing in it other than collecting their money at the top,"Ingraham continued.

Baha Mar announced yesterday that it signed a letter of intent with Hyatt Hotels Corporation to operate and manage the planned 700-room Grand Hyatt. Baha Mar Ltd. also selected Hyatt as its timeshare partner in the project, which will initially include 50 units as part of the first phase, with plans for expansion in subsequent phases, the company said in a statement.

Earlier it announced that Rosewood Hotels and Resorts will operate and manage the 200-room luxury hotel that Baha Mar will construct and Morgans Hotel Group will operate and manage the planned 300-room luxury lifestyle hotel.

In addition to concerns surrounding the hotels'branding, Ingraham said the government remains concerned about the project's controversial labor component.

Baha Mar has requested 8,150 work permits for the project. The current deal requires that the core of the project be built exclusively by foreign labor.

The government intends to the take the labor issue directly to the source when Ingraham travels to China later this moth.

Ingraham said he is meeting with China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the China Export-Import Bank to discuss the project.

"We told the China State Construction Engineering Corporation from the first time we saw them more than a year ago that it was not possible to have that number of foreign workers on a job site with the Bahamian content being so low. Nothing has changed. We've been telling them that for more than a year.

"It appears that some people either don't take us seriously or they apparently think that we are so desperate that we will do whatever we are asked to do. But our strength is not weakened,"Ingraham said.

Asked what the government would do if the company refuses to amend the deal, Ingraham said the government will"figure that out"if it comes to that.

Notwithstanding the government's concerns, Ingraham said the project would be good for The Bahamas.

"We are obviously very pleased that the bank is willing to invest more than$2 billion in The Bahamas. That will be a tremendous boost for our economy. We are concerned about making sure the maximum benefit could be derived for Bahamians and for the economy of The Bahamas,"he said.

But Ingraham said the project has to be done in"such a way that it can be sustainable in the long run and have occupancy levels that are not going to threaten what we have."

"We wouldn't want(to be)a dog with the bone in his mouth and see a shadow in the water and let[the bone]go in order to pick that shadow up. We want to make sure that the next bone is capable of being developed and operated in a way whereby they can both be successful in the context of The Bahamas. That's our interest in these projects."

In a statement yesterday Baha Mar said It is anticipated that the development will make"The Bahamas one of the premier tourist locations in the world, drawing millions of vacationers and business travelers each year to the resort's six hotels."

"With almost 3,500 rooms and condos, the largest casino in the Caribbean, the largest convention center in The Bahamas, a world-class golf course, retail village and much more, Baha Mar Resort represents the Caribbean's largest single-phase destination resort. Baha Mar will employ approximately 4,000 Bahamians over the life of the construction period, which is expected to last nearly four years. Once the resort is complete, approximately 98 percent of the staff will be Bahamian nationals, representing some 7,000 jobs for Bahamians."

Source: The Nassau Guardian