By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Minister of Tourism said yesterday that Bimini would likely benefit from more overnight visitors with Resorts World’s (RWB) decision to reintroduce non-stop commercial flights to the island from Florida, but promised: “We are not going to allow Bimini to not have a ferry service.”
Commenting on the recent announcement by the developer, Obie Wilchcombe said: “Resorts World is making adjustments as they continue to develop the tourism infrastructure in Bimini.
“Their decision on the present vessel is that it goes to dry dock, and they want to replace it because they believe a smaller vessel would be much more economical and would make better sense for them, particularly in traversing the waters during bad weather situations. The current vessel has has caused many trips to be cancelled, and they have lost money as a result.”
Explaining the Bimini ‘SuperFast’s’ cancellation, Resorts World said it was effectively being replaced by new commercial airline services that would transport guests to the island more quickly and efficiently.
Daily commercial services via Cape Air, Silver Airways and a luxury flight offered by the developer will bring nearly 500 guests to Bimini on a weekly basis.
The replacement of the three-hour cruise service with 20-minute flights was, Resorts World said, timed to coincide with the opening of its 305-room Hilton branded hotel.
The developer said it would soon replace the SuperFast with a more efficient ferry operation, and was “committed to continuing to provide ferry service for guests wishing to enjoy the trip via sea.”
While the proposed ferry service will dock at the same 1,000 foot pier and man-made island used by the SuperFast, it is unclear whether dredging would have been required to accommodate it.
The Bimini ‘Superfast’ service was launched in mid-2013, meaning that in return for permitting the controversial dredging activities to facilitate it, the Bahamas received just two-and-a-half years worth of guests.
Mr Wilchcombe, though, said Resorts World had recommended expanding Bimini’s airport to the Government.
“They recognise that there is more airlift coming into Bimini as well,” he said. “The airlift numbers are up. I’m pleased about it, and the occupancy levels are up. They expect to complete the hotel within another two months.”
Mr Wilchcombe said REsorts World’s new 300-room luxury hotel, upon completion, will allow for even greater occupancy levels and higher room rates.
“It’s all a part of a business plan. Some adjustments are being. They came to us, met with us, explained it to us and we understand,” he said.
“You’re likely to have more overnight visitors because of the airlift. We are not going to allow Bimini to not have a ferry service. People want to come to Bimini for a day. The marketing has been exceptional. They have created about 500 new jobs already in Bimini, and expect another 200-300 to be created as a result of the hotel’s expansion.”