UPDATE: ROBERT Sands, Baha Mar’s senior vice president of government and external affairs, has confirmed today that the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel, casino, resort core amenities, entertainment and recreation areas (Beach Sanctuary and TPC golf course) will be open on March 27.
He said that public spaces at the mega resort’s three other hotels - SLS LUX, Rosewood and Grand Hyatt – would also be open on March 27 and that the hotel rooms would “come online shortly after”.
Mr Sands told The Tribune that Baha Mar was “on track to have all additional areas open by our grand opening celebration in May”.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The $3.5 billion Baha Mar project’s planned launch next Friday is likely to be much less than a full opening, Tribune Business understands, with none of the three branded resort properties ready to unlock their doors.
Persistent inquiries by Tribune Business this week suggest that only the Baha Mar-branded casino hotel will open come March 27, and it is unlikely the full complement of 1,000 rooms will be ready.
Baha Mar spokesmen have failed to provide definitive answers on exactly which components of their mega project will be open and ready, as its equity partner and contractor, China State Construction, rushes to meet the finishing deadline.
This newspaper’s inquiries suggest that the March 27 opening is likely to be less than spectacular, and far short of a full launch.
Tribune Business’s interest was piqued after it received a call from an international travel writer, who informed it that the press office for SLS Hotels - one of Baha Mar’s three resort brands - had told him that their Bahamian property would only be ready for a soft launch come April 28, 2015.
This date is supported by SLS’s own booking web site, which shows no room availability until April 29, and then only for a five-day span until early May.
The travel writer told Tribune Business that SLS’s press office had informed him their Baha Mar property would only fully open in June - between June 1-7.
While Baha Mar had previously confirmed the Grand Hyatt would only open on May 1, the travel writer told Tribune Business that the third resort brand - Rosewood - had been unable to provide him with opening dates for their hotel.
This prompted Tribune Business to contact Robert Sands, Baha Mar’s senior vice-president of government and external affairs, who responded that he was unaware of this information but would check into it.
“Our core amenities, entertainment and recreation areas will all be open on March 27,” Mr Sands then told Tribune Business, when it made a follow-up call.
When asked exactly what would be included in these components, he replied: “The casino, convention centre, beach pools, some of the retail stores, the Baha Mar Hotel and Casino.”
Mr Sands than asked Tribune Business to give him ‘48 hours’ to provide this newspaper with a formal reply, which it agreed to.
In the meantime, this newspaper attempted to verify the travel writer’s information with the three resort brands, contacting them by both phone and e-mail.
However, all Tribune Business’s e-mailed inquiries were routed by the hotel brands back to Baha Mar, suggesting that the $3.5 billion developer is determined to ‘control the PR’ surrounding its March 27 opening, and that it had ‘silenced’ its brand partners.
Faced with this silence, Tribune Business called Mr Sands on Wednesday evening at around the time the 48 hours were up.
He, though, said he was unable to speak as he was just walking into the Prime Minister’s Office for a meeting with Mr Christie.
Tribune Business then called him back yesterday, only for Mr Sands to say he was on the phone with the Prime Minister. Contacted later, Mr Sands said he was “intelligence gathering” and hoped to speak formally to this newspaper last night. However, this did not happen.
All this suggests that Baha Mar was busy briefing the Government and the Prime Minister on its construction process, what will be ready by March 27, and the nature of the ‘opening activities’.
The Government’s intense interest is understandable, given how important the $3.5 billion development is to the Bahamian economy’s revival and projected growth rates, plus the dent in the unemployment rate that will be produced via the creation of 5,000 permanent jobs.
However, well-placed sources, speaking to Tribune Business on condition of anonymity, suggested that March 27 will feature just a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony involving Baha Mar and its partners; the Chinese; a blessing of the property by Archbishop Patrick Pinder; and a “photo opportunity” for the media.
Tribune Business’s contacts, though, said the Baha Mar property was looking increasingly impressive, with signs of visible construction progress every day, and more scaffolding coming down.
And some observers suggested it was unfair to get ‘hung up’ on the March 27 date, given the positive economic impact that the resort is projected to deliver for the entire Bahamas.
More important, they said, is that it ultimately delivers on the GDP impact and employment projections, and only fully opens when everything is 100 per cent ready,
One source, detailing what they had been told by Baha Mar in terms of the March 27 opening, told Tribune Business: “Some rooms, most of the restaurants and some of the shops, though not the high-end retail as they will not be ready.
“They say it will be 1,000 rooms, but it’s not going to be. Three months later the whole place will look a lot more decent. It’s going to be a while, and it’s going to take a while.”
One source suggested that Baha Mar may have been ‘boxed in’ in terms of the March 27 opening, and having to stick to it, by a combination of its resort brand partners and desire to avoid a repeat of last year’s court dispute with the Mondrian operator, Morgans Hotel Group Management.
Baha Mar is likely to have been determined to fulfil its obligations to the resort, given that Morgans alleged it had failed to meet several essential conditions in their hotel management agreement.
These agreements specify opening dates, and Morgans had alleged at the time that it had urged Baha Mar to move the opening back five months - from December 1, 2014, to April 1 this year.
Baha Mar also previously said that its major opening celebration would be held in late Spring, implying a date some time in April.