By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Resorts World Bimini (RWB) has yet to live up to its promise of turning the island into a year-round tourist destination, several residents residents told Tribune Business yesterday, amid the developer’s transportation restructuring.
Lorrick Roberts, owner of Dolphin Golf Cart Rental, said of the end to the Bimini ‘SuperFast’ cruise ship service: “This is going to impact the island a whole lot because even though the people coming in weren’t spending that much money, given that this time of the year is our slow time, we would still accept whatever they bring and make a few dollars, and at least be able to pay your bills through this slow period.”
He added: “We expect for it to be real slow from the middle of September. During Thanksgiving weekend you get some business, then at New Year’s, but after that it goes back down to where it’s slow until April.
“We know that we make our money in the summer. They [Resorts World] came in and promised to change that; we weren’t supposed to see a slow period any more. They are failing us because of what they promised, and they have been there a few years now. They are doing all the cutting back,” said Mr Roberts.
“With them saying that they are substituting the ferry service with a flight, what does that do? The fight normally brings in the high rollers for their casino when they’re having their tournaments and what’s not. That doesn’t really help the small guys because when high rollers come in they might take a ride downtown and buy some conch salad, but that’s it.”
Ebenezer David, owner of Ebbie’s & Pat’s Bone Fish Club, said that regardless of Resorts World’s changes, Bimnites would be able to “hold their own”.
“Bimini has always been a seasonal destination. I don’t think that will have a big impact for the business people to really worry about, because Bimini has always held its own,” said Mr David.
“I run a convenience store, my wife and I, and I do bone fishing as well. Honestly, I think that boat was too big for what they were doing, and they weren’t making the money from it, and that’s a big issue.”
Another Bimini resident, who wished not to be identified, told Tribune Business: “I think we are still going to have the tourists coming in, but that was just basically a local thing. The locals were really benefiting from the ferry service. The price of the ferry wasn’t as high as compared to the airlines.
“I don’t think it was worth the damage,” he added of the dredging that occurred to facilitate the Bimini ‘SuperFast’s’ docking. “At this point in time, people like myself who were rooting against the construction and advising against it, now that the damage has been done you’re kind of rooting for it to succeed.
“We were hoping that it would not have been in vain. We’re rooting for it and hoping that it [the cruise ship] comes back. The concept of the project might have been too big. There’s 1,800 people in all of Bimini and you want to bring up 1,500 people a day on a ship, I mean, it’s not sustainable. I think that a lot of people were pretty vocal about how this was going to be the inevitable outcome, and now it is.”
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.