By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Atlantis expects to this year exceed the almost-$38 million in promotional value that its 2012 Thanksgiving college basketball tournament generated, with all Paradise Island resorts set to be “sold out” for the event.
George Markantonis, Atlantis’s top executive, told Tribune Business that ticket sales for ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ 2013 had already exceeded last year’s levels, with just one team - the University of Kansas - expected to bring 1,500 fans and alumni alone.
Mr Markantonis, Brookfield Hospitality’s president and managing director, said: “We’re presently expecting to sell out all of the hotels on Paradise Island over the Thanksgiving weekend.
“We still have a lot of demand, and compression is taking place. We don’t have a lot of rooms available across the resort.”
The ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’, featuring eight top National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams, will take place from November 28-30 over the Thanksgiving weekend, featuring 12 games.
Asked about the projected financial benefits, Mr Markantonis told Tribune Business: “In 2012, that tournament generated advertising value of $9.2 million and publicity value of $27.6 million. We expect it to be at least the same this year.
“A lot of this comes from the live TV coverage of all the games across North America, and also print media across the US, including all major news outlets.
“Once again, it’s going to be a spectacular Thanksgiving. We have already sold more game tickets for the tournament than we did for the entire year last year. We continue to sell as more bookings come in, and more locals buy.”
To exploit the tournament, which is billed as the top Division One NCAA pre-season event, Mr Markantonis said Atlantis had “fined tuned our marketing efforts”.
Both it and the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotions Board will be advertising during broadcasts of the tournament, ensuring the wider Bahamian destination derives maximum exposure.
When it came to the direct financial benefits accruing to Atlantis from hosting the tournament, Mr Markantonis said: “I haven’t put pen to paper on it.
“I go from the fact that we used to run in the mid 50s to low 60 per cent occupancies in the week leading up to Thanksgiving before the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’, and now what we’re seeing is considerably different. It’s just the perfect event for our country.”
With many teams and their fans arriving on the Wednesday before the tournament, the Atlantis chief said: “I can tell you that Kansas University has informed us they will have over 1,500 alumni and fans coming with them to the Bahamas, and that’s still climbing.”
Kansas University has been placed at No.5 in the NCAA pre-season rankings, and Mr Markantonis said Atlantis and the tournament sponsors were continuing to book teams through the tournament’s first 10 years.
He added that some 19 National Basketball Association (NBA) team scouts were already confirmed attendees for the tournament.
Agreeing that the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ “really does tie in” with the Ministry of Tourism’s and private sector’s focus on sports tourism, Mr Markantonis said: “It has a significant by-product benefit for us, because we are so closely affiliated with the NCAA as a resort that we are attracting a considerable amount of NCAA business throughout the year that’s not connected with Battle 4 Atlantis.”
As an example, Mr Markantonis pointed to the number of US college teams who visited the Bahamas for games against local teams at the Kendal G. Isaacs gym, yet stayed at Atlantis.
“I’d like to think part of our success in attracting the Football Bowl to the Bahamas, which the Ministry of Tourism secured over the last few weeks, was also because of NCAA familiarity with our destination resort,” he added.
“I think it [Battle 4 Atlantis], at the end of the day, generates a lot of real and visible value, and a lot of value that is not as evident but just as important.”