Bahamian officials have high hopes that the .5 billion super-resort known as Baha Mar will transform the tourist economy and put the Caribbean island nation on the map as a world-class gaming destination.
Scheduled to open in December with four hotels, 200,000 square feet of convention space, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and a 100,000-square-foot casino replete with 1,500 slot machines, 150 table games and five private VIP rooms, Baha Mar’s sights are set firmly on the high-rolling Chinese who have made Macau the largest casino market in the world.
China’s involvement in the project is already massive. The Export-Import Bank of China is providing the bulk of the financing, $2.4 billion, and China State Construction Engineering Corp., the country’s largest construction company, is investing $150 million and is the general contractor. Thousands of Chinese workers are at work on the construction.
It’s all part of China’s growing economic and business reach in the developing world. Chinese investment in South America, for example, tops $89 billion, according to the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. And in 2011, China pledged $1 billion in loans for development in the Caribbean—not including Baha Mar.
Developer Sarkis Izmirlian, chairman and chief executive of Baha Mar, said he didn’t just want “hotels on the beach;” he wanted a destination.
Baha Mar is bringing together some of the world’s biggest hospitality brands to operate those hotels. The centerpiece, the 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, will be managed by Global Gaming Asset Management, the company founded by former Las Vegas Sands President William Weidner that opened the $750 million Solaire Resort & Casino in Manila last year. There also will be a 750-room Grand Hyatt, a 300-room Mondrian and a 200-room Rosewood Hotel. Spanish hotelier Meliá recently took over operations of the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort at Cable Beach, and when renovation of the 694-room property is completed it will also become part of the complex, operating as the Meliá at Baha Mar.
The ultimate success of the largest tourism project under development in the Western Hemisphere will depend on filling those rooms with the right customers.