The Baha Mar resort advertises itself as “the new Riviera.” It occupies 1,000 acres along Nassau’s Cable Beach.
Golfers were supposed to be swinging their clubs at the Baha Mar Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course by now and gamblers placing bets at the $3.5billion resort’s state-of-the-art casino.
But Baha Mar is behind schedule, and the Bahamas’ newest resort, which was largely financed by the Chinese government and built with the help of about 4,100 Chinese laborers, will miss all but the tail end of the all-important high season.
Instead of opening in mid-December as planned, the 1,000-acre resort along Nassau’s Cable Beach is scheduled to begin receiving guests at three of its hotels on March 27 and at a fourth — the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar — on May 1. The grand opening ceremony, produced by Jamie King and Emilio Estefan, is planned for May.
“They will miss the high season, but they will spend the time making sure everything will be in place for the next high season,” said Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe. “We feel we will do well in terms of arrivals for Baha Mar and expect high occupancy rates and high room rates.”
When the Baha Mar casino is ready to open, the gaming license will be transferred from the Crystal Palace Casino at the Wyndham Nassau Resort, which occupies prime territory in the Baha Mar complex. The only thing the tired Crystal Palace Casino will have in common with the new casino is the license. “They are totally different. It’s not even fair to compare the two,” said Sands.
Though the Crystal Palace Casino remains open, the hotel was closed and is now being used as a training center for new Baha Mar employees. All told, it will take about 4,000 workers to keep Baha Mar humming. Already about 650 people have been trained at Baha Mar’s Leadership Development Institute.
What the future of the old Wyndham will be is something that will be addressed once Baha Mar has been completed and is operating, said Sands.
Baha Mar isn’t the only mega resort in the Bahamas. Across the water from Baha Mar on Paradise Island sits Atlantis with tanks full of thousands of fish and other marine life, a mile-long water ride and a casino. With 3,414 rooms, it is bigger than Baha Mar, but it was built in three distinct phases over 14 years, rather than all at once, like the new Cable Beach resort.
Though the two resorts certainly represent competition for each other, executives say they’ll complement rather than cannibalize each other. Atlantis, which revolves around recreating the myth of the lost city of Atlantis, is more family-oriented while Baha Mar is expected to appeal more to adults.
Tens of million are being spent on marketing the new resort, Sands said. While Baha Mar is targeting key U.S. cities such as Miami, “we will be focusing a lot of efforts in China,” said Sands. That means enticing not only mainland Chinese, but high-net-worth Chinese in cities such as Vancouver, London, Toronto and New York, he said. Beyond the Baha Mar ads that have begun to appear in local media, there’s another Miami connection. Estefan produced the soundtrack for the short online film The Voyage that is featured on the resort’s reservations site.
Also expected to boost occupancy is a visa waiver agreement that China and the Bahamas signed last year. It will allow Chinese tourists to travel to the Bahamas and Bahamians to go to China for up to a month without getting a visa.Miami Herald Staff Writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.
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