By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Genting’s move to take over operations at the entire Bimini Bay Resort will make “a lot of great things happen”, the property’s developer said yesterday, including boosting real estate sales at its $250 million Rockwell Island project.
Rafael Reyes, president of RAV Bahamas, told Tribune Business that the company aimed to finalise the agreement with Genting and its Resorts World brand by April, disclosing that there had been an “amicable separation” with previous operator, Rock Resorts.
Declining to give details on the expanded agreement with Genting, as details were still being finalised, Mr Reyes said the Asian-headquartered conglomerate was looking to exploit potential synergies from operating both the hotel and casino component at Bimini Bay.
He added that Resorts World’s increased involvement on Bimini would boost real estate sales at RAV’s nearby Rockwell Island development, telling this newspaper that the developer expected to “do a whole lot better than last year” when 16 lots were sold.
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Genting’s total operational takeover in wrapping up the Mid-Year Budget debate in the House of Assembly, disclosing that the company was investing $100 million in acquiring a luxury ship and jet to bring visitors to the island.
Resorts World was already the operator for Bimini Bay’s $24 million luxury boutique casino, but Mr Reyes yesterday indicated that the Prime Minister may have been slightly premature in announcing the expanded tie-up, given that the deal had not been finalised.
Explaining the rationale for Genting’s move, he told Tribune Business: “When you are a casino operator, it makes a lot of sense taking over operations of the resort, too. It gives you a lot more synergies between the two.
“They go hand in hand. Their intention is to make a great resort that they can be proud of, and the Bahamas will be proud of.”
RAV Bahamas and its parent, the Miami-based Capo Group, will remain as Bimini Bay’s developer, with Mr Reyes confirming the resort had concluded an “amicable separation” with its former operating partner, Rock Resorts, last year.
“This is a difficult project, huge,” he said. “When you’re managing a project on an island, you don’t have the typical resources and infrastructure that these companies are used to. They had a really tough time with the development, and therefore that made it a more amicable separation.”
Genting’s extensive marketing infrastructure and tourist client base meant it would “bring a lot of good things to the island”.
“Bimini Bay has, in light of all the financial issues in the past, always been able to survive and continue to prosper, and overcome those challenges, but when you make a strategic alliance with a company like Resorts World with its capabilities, it makes everything a whole lot better,” Mr Reyes told Tribune Business.
“We see a very bright future around the corner. A lot of great things are going to happen.”
Mr Reyes said Bimini had moved from being a seasonal tourism product, enjoying a summer peak, to one where the developers now expected to enjoy “year-round occupancy”.
The 105-lot, $250 million Rockwell Island project generated 16 sales last year, but Mr Reyes said RAV Bahamas expected to “make a lot of high-end real estate sales this year”.
“We’re kind of holding off,” he added of Rockwell Island, “because it will be great to relaunch everything with the casino opening and there being more life on the island.
“It will create a great sales effort to move the amount of real estate that project has the ability to generate. We think we’re going to do a whole lot better than we did last year with all these amenities.”
Mr Reyes said the Bimini Bay Resort itself had “already seen a spike in the occupancy” as a result of increased promotional and marketing efforts, which was attracting the attention of potential tourists and real estate buyers.