By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Atlantis's top executive yesterday revealed that the Paradise Island destination resort is likely to invest a further $130 million to upgrade its amenities by 2018 year-end.
Howard Karawan, its president and managing director, said "north of $80 million" would be spent to enhance the property this year, with another $50 million likely injected in 2018.
He told Tribune Business in an interview: "This year, we would have spent north of about $80 million. You do have to maintain your physical plant. You have to keep your rooms fresh. By the end of next year, every single room in Atlantis would have been redone.
"We are also adding new restaurants, such as Sip Sip at the Cove. We are about to announce a Bahamian-inspired seafood restaurant in conjunction with a celebrity chef and some local chefs over at the Cove."
Mr Karawan said he expects $130 million to be spent over the next two years improving the property, adding: "Next year I foresee us spending another $50 million or so to keep the product fresh and updated, but we don't need to spend $1 billion right now. I would rather take that money and invest in our associates and local businesses to create the experience."
Mr Karawan told Tribune Business that the resort has experienced a "very strong" summer season, with average July occupancies "well north of 90 per cent".
"I would say that summer has been very good for us. July has been well north of 90 per cent occupancy, so business is very strong," he said.
Mr Karawan yesterday said Atlantis's 'phase four' will involve creating more authentic Bahamian experiences for guests, via a combination of cultural and culinary attractions designed to establish "a connection" with this destination in the minds of visitors.
It is also likely intended to give the destination resort some differentiation from the $4.2 billion Baha Mar project at Cable Beach.
Mr Karawan said Atlantis was seeking to enhance the indigenous experience and provide more economic benefits to Bahamian businesses, revealing it had partnered with 20-30 local companies in what he described as a "win-win for all".
"You can't just keep building new buildings and new pools," he told Tribune Business. "The market sometimes can't handle that. Tourism has changed. People don't just want pretty new hotel rooms; they want real, indigenous, flavourful and soulful experiences."
Mr Karawan said Atlantis has teamed with the likes of Arawak Cay-based restaurant, Frankie Gone Bananas; Harbour Island's Sip Sip restaurant; and Pirate Republic Bahamas, the downtown Nassau craft brewer, to enhance its guest experience via outlets at the resort and its Marina Village. Ice cream operator, Sun & Ice, is already present, and Tribune Business understands that McKenzie's, the Potter's Cay conch vendor, is also being considered for a location.
"I think that as business people we owe it to our local communities to engage and have a shared purpose, because if we are truly going to be successful so will the local community. Fortunately, Atlantis and the local community that we give back to have a common cause, which is a shared mission of really creating a flourishing Bahamian future. What that means is partnering at a variety of levels," said Mr Karawan.
He added: "We partnered with, I think, 20-30 local Bahamian businesses - from the company providing the sea sponges in the rooms we are using now, Frankie Gone Bananas, Pirate Republic and Sip Sip.
"Our guests can go anywhere and get Häagen-Daz. There is only one place they can get things like bennie cake and guava duff. To me, it's rewarding, because we are making a difference in the country by supporting these local businesses, and it is also great benefit to our guests, so it's a win-win for everybody."
Atlantis executives yesterday led Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, Cabinet ministers and FNM MPs and Senators on a tour of the hotel property.