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Baha Mar Opening 'More Than A Dream Come True'

Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling participates in the official ribbon cutting ceremony to declare the opening of Baha Mar phase one on Friday with Prime Minister Perry Christie, China Construction America President Ning Yuan and Baha Mar President Graeme Davis. Photo: Peter Ramsay/BIS

Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling participates in the official ribbon cutting ceremony to declare the opening of Baha Mar phase one on Friday with Prime Minister Perry Christie, China Construction America President Ning Yuan and Baha Mar President Graeme Davis. Photo: Peter Ramsay/BIS

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Perry Christie is adamant that the long awaited opening of Baha Mar’s first phase on Friday is not a “mirage” or an “ostentatious effort of misleading and misrepresenting”, branding it the most significant economic development event to ever occur in the country and the Caribbean region. 

For many Bahamians, Mr Christie said the opening of the Grand Hyatt is more than a dream come true; it is the unfolding of a bold vision that he led his administration in undertaking with the private sector 10 years ago.

Describing the resort as a vehicle that will reshape and redefine the next generation of destination resorts in the world, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) Ltd CEO Graeme Davis said the Baha Mar dream and the Bahamian dream intertwined to finally produce a “magnificent structure”.

The remarks came during a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a lavish reception in honour of the first phase opening of the West Bay Street resort. The event also saw Baha Mar employees line the walkway of the resort, greeting invited guests as they arrived.

Baha Mar was originally scheduled to open at the end of 2014. It was delayed because of the resort’s original developer Sarkis Izmirilian filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States in June, 2015. He eventually lost control of the $3.5bn mega resort after legal wrangling in US and in the Bahamas.

Despite the event to celebrate the opening of the massive hotel, many of the retail outlets remained closed. Mr Davis also confirmed yesterday that many of the guests in the hotel were not paying customers, but invited for a “preview period”. He also said that the official date for guest reservations is scheduled for May 29.

Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) ultimately acquired the property and said it would invest about $200 million to get the project's first phase ready for the general public.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Baha Mar’s opening is not a mirage; it is real and it is the most significant economic development event ever to occur in a single phase within The Bahamas and the Caribbean region,” Mr Christie told scores of people invited to attend the grand occasion.

“It is more than a dream come true; it is the unfolding of a bold vision which I led my Government in undertaking with private sector partners a decade ago.

“It began with the acquisition of government-owned and privately-held properties; the creation of a master development plan to transform the Cable Beach area into a world class tourism destination; large-scale private sector investment supported by Government concessions; overcoming a major recession, provisional liquidation and receivership; securing new investors and operators, and additional financing; all secured by endless and tedious negotiations to achieve the notable outcome and milestone in Bahamian tourism which we celebrate today.

“Amidst the complex and arduous negotiations, my Government and I remained focused on achieving three main objectives. Firstly, ensuring immediate remobilisation and resumption of construction, based on committed funding sufficient to complete construction and to open all parts of the project.

“Secondly, the opening of the casino, casino hotel, convention centre, convention hotel and golf course prior to the end of the 2016-2017 winter season.

“And thirdly, settlement and/or payment of all valid claims of contractors and subcontractors, suppliers and employees and other Baha Mar and CCA creditors.

"I am pleased that my Government has, with the co-operation of the stakeholders, achieved these lofty objectives. Not only has funding been provided to fund all remaining construction costs to complete the project, but some $101.5 million has been injected into the Bahamian economy towards payment of employees and unsecured creditors.

"This sum represents an unprecedented ex-gratia payment made by China Export Import Bank to unsecured creditors to accommodate the request of my government. 

“Hundreds of former Bahamian employees of Baha Mar have received the outstanding amounts due to them - unpaid salaries, severance pay, accrued vacation pay, and notice payments due by termination. Sums deducted from employees and former employees’ salaries and pension contributions have been paid. Other Bahamian creditors and contractors have received a significant part and, in many cases, all of the value of their claims.”

He also said: “At full opening, Baha Mar is projected to generate an additional 315,000 air passenger seats annually, an increase of 19 per cent over our 2015 record of arrivals and signalling in the marketplace the revitalisation of the Bahamas tourism brand.

“Baha Mar’s full opening, therefore, is critical to the economic viability of our national economy. It is expected to generate over $700m in direct annual economic output and $1.1bn in indirect and induced output and to contribute over $45m in taxes annually, just from resort operations and national insurance contributions.

“That is why Baha Mar is such an important project for us. Its success in meeting its own financial targets and in reaching markets that are not in direct competition with other local mega resorts will have enormous consequences for us as a people, improving our livelihoods, maintaining of our way of life and delivering opportunities in this industry for our children’s children. This is why I have been so focused on ensuring that the resort is completed and opened at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Mr Davis thanked stakeholders saying their contribution to the project allowed “mountains” to be moved. 

“This magnificent structure you see before you is a testament of the vision conceived over 14 years ago by Sarkis Izmirilian. Through the strength and spirit of the Bahamian people and the commitment of the Cheng family, Baha Mar is the result of what happens when great minds, great hearts and human determination come together. Mountains can be moved structures rise from the ground

“To the Bahamian people, whose work is etched in every inch of Baha Mar who will be the ambassadors of this outstanding destination, thank you.

“To the government of the Bahamas that partnered with us, worked countless days to save this project from an uncertain fate and created the best outcome for the Bahamas, thank you.

“To China EXIM Bank, whose faith and unwavering commitment to the viability of this project persevered through all of its ups and downs, thank you.

“To China Construction America, whose engineers designed a marvel whose employees sacrificed years of their lives far away from home and were steadfast in building this beautiful tribute to the Bahamas, thank you.

“And on behalf of the Cheng family, owners of CTFE, we extend a special thank you to Prime Minister Christie who invested so much time, how you made yourself available day and night and insisted that the Bahamas emerge the winners throughout it all, thank you.”

He said yesterday’s opening was a proud and exciting moment for all to have reached this point. He said Baha Mar had an exciting future ahead.

Comments

John 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Free rooms for all Bahamians .. once a year dis we tings still

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John 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Salt, oil, aragonite, Atlantis, Bah Mar, sand , sun. And sea. Lobster fish conch and Bahamians still poor? Gimme a breakfast

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ohdrap4 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Mountains can be moved

if them mountains can be moved, so can the plp.

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hallmark 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Was Jerome Fitzgerald at the opening?

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DillyTree 7 months, 3 weeks ago

'More Than A Dream Come True' --- Not for Sarkis Izmirlian after the PLP and the Chinese pushed him out. Now Perry Christie is taking full credit for the opening. A fake opening at that!

I can't wait for May 10th!

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Economist 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Where were all the tourists staying there tonight. Did say that it was open. That means real business, with real guests.

Oh, was this just a sham for the elections?

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flyingscot 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"an increase of 19 per cent over our 2015 record of arrivals and signalling in the marketplace the revitalisation of the Bahamas tourism brand."

There is growing pushback aimed at an escalating and uncontrollable crime rate in the Bahamas.

Did Christie factor in the evidence that the global tourism industry has already started to eliminate the Bahamas from their tourism destinations? Seems they agree with clients who say why spend all that money just to be victimized by criminals and told by the police that "this never happens in the Bahamas."

This will not go well for the tourism industry in the Bahamas. It's a dangerous place for Bahamians and tourists alike. Bahamians are stuck with a broken system and no apparently way out - unless the appeal to the world to look closer at how crime is treated like a normal fixture in the islands. Something stinks in the politics and finance of keeping people safe and secure.

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concernedcitizen 7 months, 3 weeks ago

A 19% increase of cruise lines taking guest to their private islands

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BMW 7 months, 3 weeks ago

What a pile of bullshit! We the Bahamian taxpayers arepaying for this sham opening. Dont they understand that you need paying guests to be "open". Vomit and crew will have the run of bahamar until election.

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bahamas12345 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Was there on Friday night, I expected more than it was. At least a few people have been employed which the country needs. Atlantis has way more to offer.

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Cobalt 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Every time this man opens his mouth.... nothing but nonsense comes out. This sham opening is nothing more than a pretense and a political stunt to give the impression that Christie and his government have done something worthwhile when we all know that isn't the case. It's an election stunt that will backfire in the upcoming weeks simply because it insults the intelligence of the Bahamian public.

Mr. Christie.... Bahamar is NOT open, and this unconventional platform that you are trying to create in an effort to score political points will blow up in your face.

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OMG 7 months, 3 weeks ago

If that so called Education Minister tried to get his snout in the financial trough how many others have tried or have special financial interests.

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alfalfa 7 months, 3 weeks ago

So now that they are open, I visited their website and tried to make reservations for some friends, who will be visiting in June. Site is still not accepting reservations. I guess "open" requires some interpretation, which is beyond my feeble capabilities.

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DDK 7 months, 3 weeks ago

It seems they are accepting bookings from 29th May onward? Did you go as far as giving credit card information?

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Cornel 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Still can not make a reservation on Hyatt.com . Only guests last night must have been politicians and their girl friends . . . .

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happyfly 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This FAKE opening is our VAT being pissed away, as they say !

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birdiestrachan 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Perhaps those who have found employment may have a different view.

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truetruebahamian 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Cheap shoddy PLP electioneering garbage move. Only brainless fools would believe them!

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realfreethinker 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Exactly who I was thinking about with taht remark

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hallmark 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) ultimately acquired the property and said it would invest about $200 million to get the project's first phase ready for the general public." Please explain why I would spend $200 million for a property I do not own yet? Will this amount be deducted from the purchase price? What if I don't decide to purchase it after all, will I get a refund? From whom?

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banker 7 months, 3 weeks ago

There is a lot more to this story. I am willing to bet that it was "given" to someone, operated by someone to create a Potemkin Village effect for the election. Can hardly wait for the real story to come out after the PLP loses the election.

The first step for the new government, is to lock up Perry Christie and the PLP cabinet ministers in Fox Hill for at least 25 years. Jerome and Shame Gibson can carry the SLOP buckets.

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Sickened 7 months, 3 weeks ago

We have put in every penny recently to get this 'opened'. THAT's where the VAT money gone!

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sheeprunner12 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The government reportedly spent $30 million for the opening weekend ............ SMDH

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sheeprunner12 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I feel sorry for the Bahamian workers who are the on-going pawns in this unfortunate saga ...... I trust that the FNM will sort this quagmire out, find a reputable operator other than the Chinese (who have NO interest in growing our tourism industry), and get these Bahamar workers off the Treasury pay-roll ................. Who is this white man fronting for CFTE anyway????????

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djgross 7 months, 3 weeks ago

While “Hundreds of former Bahamian employees of Baha Mar have received the outstanding amounts due to them - unpaid salaries, severance pay," there are still 200+ former expatriate employees who are still waiting to be paid the amounts due to them. This action appears to be Government of Bahamas sanctioned discrimination. What is the value of a contract in the Bahamas; if you're not Bahamian apparently it's not worth anything. This practice is not only unfair, but unlawful. When will we be paid???

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islandlad 7 months, 3 weeks ago

First of all, all people and the opposition parties need to get over themselves and let go this idea of a fake, illusion of an opening and as said by The PM above as "Mirage and misleading/misrepresentation" it is very common practice within the industry to have soft/preview openings. It's not a mirage and a lie of an opening if anybody can walk in off the street and eat at the restaurants, gamble in the Casino, play golf and go to the spa, as well as walk the pool decks down to the beach and have a lovely adult beverage at one of the many pool bars.........how is that a fake or mirage opening? Those that are checked in have the responsibility to leave constructive observations for both the physical property as well as for the training of the staff, basically they are all "Shoppers@ as they are called that go into establishment to review them and insure they are up to standards. Only difference is they are usually anonymous and report back to leadership on their findings. What would those nay Sayers and apparent "Hospitality Experts" do in way of an "Official full opening" without any real time/life training with interaction with customers, just not be open one day and the next show up and start checking in 1,800 rooms!!?? Since most would be at least double occupancy, your looking at least at 3,000 people, ya right, there is a recipe for customer service, success and business model.

Now, having said that, I think Mr Christie has gone way to far and is being self gratuitous by saying that "It's the most significant and impactful economic development event to ever occur in the country and the Caribbean region". If I were Atlantis not only would I feel insulted and take issue with that statement as clearly at its opening it was just as impactuful, if not more being the first, in regards to overall economic impact for the country. Further, it's extremely in bad blood saying this with all the good philanthropy and good will that Atlantis has had in the community. On top of this, the PM contradicts himself big time when he mentions in the same paragraph that it's the largest single phase opening.......this is comical and a talking point from the previous ownership and preopening marketing when it was to be single phase specifically meaning all is open at once! The PM and all other cronies have consistently called this a soft preview opening which will be in several phases with additional hotels F&B outlets, shops etc coming on board in later phases...........the very definition of a contradiction. This "Phased" opening is no different than Atlantis was (Another reason why the nay Sayers need to shut up because clearly this is a best practice with such a large development) so the PM is talking out of both sides of his mouth when it suits him to paint a prettier picture when convenient.

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Sickened 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Why don't you go there today and let me know if you still think that the hotel is operating. No guests, no taxis waiting to take anybody anywhere. If it weren't for the FNM's (i.e. people with credit cards) the Friday night soft opening would have been empty as well. The doors may be open and the lights may be on... but there ain't nobody home.

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banker 7 months, 3 weeks ago

You still can't book a room as a tourist on any online venue. Talk dat!

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bahamiangoddedd 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The concessions must be worth it to pull off that fake opening and hire 1500 without bookings. I believe it will be shock and awe when we really find out what concessions were given.

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BMW 7 months, 3 weeks ago

As I said before its a sham! Plain and simple.

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TalRussell 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Comrades! Those fancy blue ribbons has done brought so much Baha Mar fatigue to the natives, and it came at a price tag of over a Billion dollars to taxpayer's and the state. But given the background the two main political contenders for PM come the May 10, 2017 General Election Day - will be the problem - cause regardless which party gets elected to govern - the WILL of the natives - will continued to be ignored.
Begs the question - are general elections really necessary when they are no more than opportunities for elite local influence peddlers and 'rich foreigner monies to be meddling in our local politics?

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Alex_Charles 7 months, 3 weeks ago

of course Fitzgerald won't answer questions, nor did the Prime Minister.

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ohdrap4 7 months, 3 weeks ago

why did Lady Pindling not get a new dress for such an auspicious occasion?

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ThisIsOurs 7 months, 3 weeks ago

She looks nice, dressed appropriately, very good for her age. Men have it too easy, all they have to do is change a tie, I'll bet you Christie wear that suit twice last week.

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