Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Caribbean's largest single-phase, luxury resort development, Baha Mar Casino and Hotel, is 33 per cent complete and on target to meet its December 2014 opening deadline.
Located in Nassau, the 3,500-room, US$3.5-billion development will redefine the whole lodging experience in the western Hemisphere, says Baha Mar's senior vice-president, Robert 'Sandy' Sands, during a tour of the construction site by delegates attending the Caribbean Travel Marketplace at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, which ended Tuesday.
Airlift is the number-one priority for the resort developers, as well as the government, which has admitted it will need to add some 500,000 more airline seats to meet the demand that the Baha Mar will create.
"Already we are in talks with the airlines and are looking at what ways the resort will have an impact on the country," says the country's Director General of Tourism David Johnson.
Already, The Bahamas government has unveiled a brand new, spanking airport facility in which it invested US$410 million. The new facility has afforded the country a 50 per cent increase in capacity and access to over five million passengers now. This upgrade includes 10 new aircraft bridges with four swing gates.
Baha Mar is fully owned by the Swiss/Armenian family, the Izmirlians, who are residents of The Bahamas. The project is being financed in part by the EXIM Bank, which pumped US$2.6 billion into it, while the rest of the money is equity from the owners.
Enclave of excitement
According to Sands, the Baha Mar will offer 100,000 square feet of gaming excitement, rivalling the best casino floors around the world. The development includes a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole championship golf course, and a large convention centre.
"Baha Mar will be the enclave of excitement and glamour of our generation - the new Riviera," said Saun Lightbourne, director of destination marketing.
Some 8,000 permanent jobs are expected to be created as a result of the project, providing some US$305 million in salaries and wages each year, the developers say.
According to the organisation, the project will add approximately US$1 billion to the Bahamian economy in new spending in the first year after completion, and will increase stopover visitors by 30 per cent in year one by bringing in 430,000 travellers.