What’s New in the Bahamas

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The 694-room, 32-suite all-inclusive Melia Nassau Beach.
The 694-room, 32-suite all-inclusive Melia Nassau Beach Resort.

“Not for one second have I ever doubted that Baha Mar will open,” declared Prime Minister Perry G. Christie during the annual CHTA (Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association) Marketplace. “When we meet again,” he added, “Baha Mar will be open.” More about that later, but as Joy Jibrilu, Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, noted at a press conference, The Bahamas is about more than just Baha Mar. Here’s what’s happening:

In late 2015 Hurricane Joaquin “caused devastation in the southern islands,” said Jibrilu, “but those islands, known for niche market fishing, diving, and romance, are now open for business.

The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini has transformed the island. Hilton is partly open now, and the grand opening will be in April. P.S. This resort’s conference facilities actually have windows.

New airlift includes Delta from Atlanta to Eleuthera and American Airlines from Miami to San Salvador. With increased airlift to Exuma, Jibrulu hinted that the Sandals on that island might enlarge and convert to a Beaches.

Sunwing and Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort have spearheaded changes on Grand Bahama Island, where Lighthouse Pointe opened in December on the far side of Grand Lucayan. Add the extant Viva Wyndham, and now half of Grand Bahama Island’s 2,000 rooms are all-inclusives.

Sports tourism is attracting more visitors, thanks not only to participatory sports (fishing, golfing, boating, etc.), but to spectator sports such as golf tournaments, Popey’s Bahamas Bowl, and other events.

Nassau-Paradise Island has new boutique hotels. Ocean West, a 10-room property on West Bay Street, offers colonial-style elegance and the superb Sapodilla restaurant. The Bahamian-owned Island House has enjoyed an occupancy level above 90 percent, said Jibrilu, and a vibe that’s “very zen.”

The former Holiday Inn /Sunset Resort will be a Courtyard by Marriott after a complete renovation.

A profound makeover will turn the historic British Colonial Hilton into The Point, which will not only offer accommodations, but entertainment, 11 restaurants, and the power to “transform downtown.”

The adults-only, all-inclusive, 245-room Warwick Paradise Island (a sister of the Warwicks in Manhattan, Chicago, and other great cities) will debut this summer.

In May Atlantis Paradise Island will complete a refurbishment of all suites in the Cove (for now, make sure your clients have one of the renewed units). Other upgrades include the Bahamian-South American fusion restaurant 77° West, Plato’s (in February), and Poseidon’s Table, which will replace The Marketplace buffet.

Renovations in the original Hartford Wing of One&Only Ocean Club have increased room sizes by about 110 sq. ft. A new infinity pool plays peekaboo between the Dune Restaurant and the ocean.

In 2015 the Melia Nassau Beach Resort finished converting the Nassau Beach Hotel into a 694-room, 32-suite all-inclusive component of Baha Mar. Now, what about the rest of Baha Mar? As mentioned, the prime minister swears it will open. “Five or six parties are interested in the stalled project because it is virtually complete,” added Jibrilu. To be sure, nothing is written in stone (or in any other medium), and the odds of the Rosewood piece of the puzzle materializing are slim to none. On the other hand, P.M. Christie delared at CHTA that the interested parties include Hyatt and Fosun, the Chinese company behind Club Med. These are serious players.