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Baha Mar Is 'Handed Over'

Prime Minister Perry Christie and Graeme Davis, CTFE president, pictured outside the Baha Mar casino on Tuesday. 
Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

Prime Minister Perry Christie and Graeme Davis, CTFE president, pictured outside the Baha Mar casino on Tuesday. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

IN THE absence of a casino operator licence and no definite answers on when guest reservations will be accepted, China Construction America officially “transferred” mega resort Baha Mar to Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd yesterday.

The transfer was executed by CCA handing over to CTFE its Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO), which now allows visitors to occupy rooms and utilise other resort amenities.

Describing himself as feeling an “incredible degree of pleasure”, Prime Minister Perry Christie adopted a celebratory tone but chastised critics, saying those who are rooting for the project to fail for political purposes should feel terrible about doing so.

During comments that were seemingly directed at Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis, Mr Christie added that he could not imagine how anyone who cares about people would continue to “distort” the truth about the “real” West Bay Street development.

Asked when the resort would begin taking guest reservations, Graeme Davis, CTFE Bahamas president, said this would commence “very, very soon” with the launch of Baha Mar’s advertising campaign.

He went on to suggest that non-paying guests would “fill” the resort on its first day of operation, explaining that guests were “invited” for Baha Mar’s celebration and ribbon cutting to commemorate its opening.

Officials plan to launch the stalled resort in phases beginning with a soft opening on April 21.

At this time the golf course, the Grand Hyatt, the Convention Centre and other amenities will be opened.

Mr Davis said there is a very short term booking window with an “incredible amount of pent up demand”, adding that there are no concerns in this regard.

“Today Baha Mar is being transferred to a world class company, one that successfully manages prestigious hotels across the world, including three successful resorts in the Caribbean - one in Antigua, one in Bermuda and one in the British Virgin Islands,” Mr Christie said as he was flanked by Cabinet ministers and Baha Mar officials at the entrance to the resort’s casino.

“This new owner has actually increased their capital marketing and pre-opening investment from $200m to $250m. We are grateful for such a strong level of experience and investment to usher in new opportunities for the Bahamian people.

“This weekend I remarked on the exciting progress leading up to the April 21st opening of the Baha Mar resort. I said I would be here this week because this is real. Everyone who is here today can feel the excitement and the activity. I for myself have seen new employees who are coming in for training and moving forward all on course to make this project a big success.”

Mr Christie continued: “Baha Mar like Atlantis will then open in phases with more job opportunity at every phase and ... I was told as we were walking here ... that the guest rooms are being made ready, the soap and other accoutrements are being put into the rooms, the rooms are being made ready, the housekeepers are up there now working and getting those rooms ready (and) they are going to start cooking in the kitchen this evening again as a practical demonstration of getting ready.

“They are probably going to have employees sleep in a couple rooms. They’ll be able to practice the proficiency that will be required and so it is all go and it is all go right now. It is real.

“Ladies and gentlemen, no one knows better than I how these jobs will change lives. These new opportunities are going to be a meaningful change for a lot of Bahamian families and that’s what it’s all about and that’s why we worked so hard to make sure that Baha Mar was delivered to successful and to safe hands.

“My final words are to those who are rooting against the success of this project for political purposes. They would be best advised not to do so and to feel terrible about doing so.

“If they could actually see the hope and excitement and anticipation on the faces of the people who are being employed here. These are new employees, many of them working for the first time in this kind of environment. It is a defining life experience for them and they will take up ownership of this particular hotel resort complex and they are going to make it one of the finest resort complexes in the entire world.

“That is the intention and I can’t imagine anyone who cares about people who would continue to distort the truth about this wonderful edifice.

“It’s going to have an enormous economic impact on people, it’s going to give people a new lease on life and I’m going to be so happy driving up and down here and watching people come back and forth to work,” Mr Christie added.

Ready for business

During his remarks yesterday, Mr Davis said executives have already employed 1,000 Bahamians, who will face additional training to better serve guests. Reservations will not be accepted until Baha Mar’s advertising campaign is launched, he said.

Mr Davis added that he was thrilled to receive the TCO, now allowing guests to sleep in rooms, cook in Baha Mar’s kitchens and have staff trained for the next 30 days.

“It’s a huge process for us to be open. We’re excited (and) we’re ready,” Mr Davis said.

Asked to comment on the status of the casino licence, Mr Davis said it was in the process of completion.

“The casino licence is well underway. We have been given the approvals to order the machines as the prior developer had the machines in place (and) training underway before their licence was received.

“We are in the same process as they were. We really need to make sure that we’re ready, but that process is moving along smoothly and we don’t expect any concerns. We have a public hearing coming up and we are ready to present.”

He continued: “We are already full for our first day, so we have invited guests that are already invited and are coming for our celebration ribbon cutting. But it’s open to the public here to come and enjoy the beautiful fountain shows. Our restaurants, our bars, of course our casino will be fully operational, our golf course will be fully operational, our convention centre will be fully operational as well.

“Again we are launching our marketing campaign,” Mr Davis said.

“We’re just doing the final touches there. Again it takes time, but we want to get it right. So we are being thoughtful. We’re making sure that we take the right actions and the right steps so whatever you read in the papers it is real and we are opening and we are excited to have our guests come here very, very soon and join us.”

No funny business

Addressing concerns about casino equipment being delivered to the resort in the absence of a casino licence and rooms being filled by invited non-paying guests, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said there was nothing extraordinary about either of these developments.

“If you remember Baha Mar had equipment in the place and some of the equipment had to go out,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “The company was saying they wanted their equipment because Baha Mar was not proceeding and so it’s not unusual because it’s part of the installation and a part of what we have to do in gaming is approve the equipment. So that’s a part of the process and the training takes place.

“At a particular point in the due diligence they’ll get permission for them to bring the equipment in and that has been done and so now we’re going to the next step, which will be the public hearing and soon after expect the recommendation to come from the Gaming Board. But the gaming board works in isolation away from our offices and then they make the recommendation,” he said.

Regarding the resort being filled with invited guests on its first day, Mr Wilchcombe said it was “normal”. “They want you to be the test so you come in, you look at everything that is going on, you tweak based on what you get from the guest. So you’ll be seeing that over the next couple of weeks because, right now, I expect some of the employees to be spending nights here.

“This is really to get into the proficiency to ensure that we can, in fact, run this property because look at the brands that you have? You have to remember now that the standards are so high. They have to get to a particular level. You only get there through practice and so it’s a part of the preparation progress.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Baha Mar’s sale to CTFE last December.

Since then, the matter has been one of contention and its April 21 opening branded “an election gimmick” after it was confirmed that the acquisition by CTFE will not close until all construction work is completed.

Last month, Robert Sands, Baha Mar’s senior vice-president of government and external affairs, told Tribune Business that CTFE had agreed “to take possession and operate portions of the resort” until its deal with the China Export-Import Bank could close.

Mr Sands’ comments came after Mr Davis triggered a renewed onslaught from Opposition politicians by confirming that Baha Mar will open without its sale being completed.

Earlier this month Dr Minnis pledged that his party will “engage and execute a real sale” of the Baha Mar resort “to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians,” should the Opposition party win the next general election.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dr Minnis also said this buyer would use only Bahamian labour to complete the beleaguered resort, while again promising that his party would make public the details relating to the Baha Mar deal and any other government dealings with Chinese investors.

Comments

banker 1 year, 8 months ago

WTF -- handed over without a sale ???????? Has the world gone mad????

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

He went on to suggest that non-paying guests would “fill” the resort on its first day of operation

Largest Potemkim village ever setup.

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sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

It already is the largest Potemkin village - chingrets been living there for over a year - only allowed to smokey ciggy during day too much light for night time someone might see.....see they had their passports taken away so as slaves the master had to give them someplace to sleep and Perry said since we ain't using it no how .....

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

These are new employees, many of them working for the first time in this kind of environment. It is a defining life experience for them and they will take up ownership of this particular hotel resort complex

Ownership? has Bahamar been nationalized?

Cable beach hotel 2.0?

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sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

Many of them working for the first time because you suck at creating jobs???

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr Christie continued: “Baha Mar like Atlantis will then open in phases with more job opportunity

Ingraham could have told you so from day one.

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sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

Bahmar will open in phases because the construction quality is for shit and it's not 100% safe for occupancy?

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sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

The jobs are gonna change lives = no tourist will leave Bah Mar without having their assess thoroughly wiped by a Bahamian wearing a tropical shirt and begging for tips who in turn will thank perry with his vote for the job......

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TalRussell 1 year, 8 months ago

Comrades, there is justification to demand straight talking transparency answers from the PM and his cabinet colleagues over the 'sale' of Baha Mar to the Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd - but why belittle the thousands of support workers responsible for servicing the very lifeblood our Bahamaland's vital tourism industry?
Is there any doubt that both the PLP and Red Movement are attempting to to their own political advantage to benefit from Baha Mar's opening or not opening?
Let the sucker open - and then we will deal with the PLP cabinet - positively, or run them from office come the 2017 General?

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Craig 1 year, 8 months ago

Fake news!! How can CCA hand over a partially completed resort over? What, three floors in two of the towers almost ready for occupancy, a partially completed casino, few tenants, one or two restaurants, hording and temporary barriers everywhere to prevent guest from wondering into areas that are still under construction, restaurants in and near the casino that will have to be completed while the casino is operating and on and on. There is still so much to be done. I wonder what are the terms of the TCO? They should make the terms of the TCO public so that everyone will get the true picture of the grand hand over. What a farce!! The PLP is using this as a political tool to try get reelected. It is nauseating to witness.

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viewersmatters 1 year, 8 months ago

What is so troubling trying to understand is in other words how can anyone praise and honor a person who sets a building on fire with the help of his colleagues then out the fire with the same help then get honor has a hero. The Government are at full cause and responsibilities along with CCA for the destruction and failure of Bahamar, thousands of families were sent packing home with no jobs and big responsibility including providing for their family, the people had suffer hard and long because of the Government involvement of Bahamar and CCA horrible performance and now the very same individuals who are responsible are looking like heros like they've done anything all they did was maintain (not out) the fire that they have started.

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Sickened 1 year, 8 months ago

Baha Mar would be the funniest story ever if it weren't to bloody sad.

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Sickened 1 year, 8 months ago

Fool me 5 times... shame on you. Fool me 6 times... shame on me! You ain't fooling me no more Perry! I'll believe it when I see paying guests coming and going!

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John 1 year, 8 months ago

When Izmirilian and PM Hubert Ingraham wanted the Bar Mar Elephant (white) to be completed in stages the China Bank insisted that the entire project be completed as a whole. Noooka wat a happen now. China vs China

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TalRussell 1 year, 8 months ago

Comrades! If Minnis becomes PM, will he sell Baha Mar to Izmirlian, or just reinstall him as owner? Who will be the Reds Cabinet Minister, responsible for demanding the properties keys back from the Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd?

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reverendrichlkemp 1 year, 8 months ago

Congrats to the PM and shame be upon all you haters. Any project that's putting Bahamian can only be goo, positive and right. to speak think or wish otherwise is not love, and thus, not of GOD. Go on Mr. Christie and THE PLP, THE PARTY OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE AND OF THE PEOPLE. HATERS will HATE, for that's their nature. Yes, you can have your political views, but wishing, doubting and desiring failure for your fellow Bahamians just proves how worthless you are...remember, what evil you wish fir another tends to visit you first. Again, Congrats to the PM and the Bahamian people for finally getting this resort open that will employ thousands of BAHAMIANS, not FMN's, not PLP's, not DNA'S, but BAHAMIANS...YA DATTA LOVE THAT !

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concernedcitizen 1 year, 8 months ago

You go online and book a room for april 21st or 22nd ..More demolition needs to go on that can,t be done w/ guest there ,,this is a sham ,,tell me the website to book rooms at China town ,,Baha mar

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Craig 1 year, 8 months ago

Spoken like a true PLP!! If you oppose the PLP you are a hater. No sir we're not. We are concerned Bahamians. Please pull the wool from your eyes. These people are playing us. That resort is not ready to open. Its all a facade, to try persuade people to vote for them. This is such a political ploy and can't believe how gullible some people are!! Wake up

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ohdrap4 1 year, 8 months ago

i see your true colors shining through

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Porcupine 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr. Christie,

You should have been fired long time now. BahaMar has already cost this country (the people) dearly. Your leadership skills are terrible. You don't deserve a penny more of the working people's money. You should leave office in shame. What a pity.

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banker 1 year, 8 months ago

Holy Crap -- I went to look at the jobs that they are advertising. There are a few interesting tidbits that jump out at me.

First -- they are hiring canine patrol dog handlers to patrol the perimeter premises of Baha Mar with guard dogs. WTF? How are guests going to feel being in a compound patrolled by guard dogs. Here is the link if you want to be a gulag guard with a killer dog strapped to you: https://applyonline.bahamar.com:8443/...">https://applyonline.bahamar.com:8443/...

I looked at the IT jobs. They are advertising for iSeries software guys to power the resort. iSeries is IBM mainframe AS/400 computers that were designed in 1988. Yes a few banks and insurance companies used them. I remember Colina trying to get off the old mainframes AS/400s and it took them several years. You would think that a new resort would have the latest and greatest in server and computers. But no, they are advertising for Windows engineers and Linux engineers. It doesn't sound like a very modern IT department.

Other jobs included aquarium people. My goodness, are they trying to emulate Atlantis.

Here is the job list: https://applyonline.bahamar.com:8443/...">https://applyonline.bahamar.com:8443/...

Doesn't sound like they have very modern infrastructure. One would think that casino operations would have an Analytics department, a vast array of servers driving everything from security to Big Data processing and modeling. Instead, it looks like a Mickey Mouse operation.

There was no place to book a holiday, no was there any information for customers -- like room types, or packages. Opening soon, my ass! On top of it all, the name Baha Mar is poisoned, having burned so many travel agents and tourism companies, that even if they were advertising for customers, they have a bad reputation already for not being open. This is really a Potemkin Village built on the cheap.

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Cobalt 1 year, 8 months ago

Lol. Perry Christie at his best.

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Sickened 1 year, 8 months ago

LOL! Those guard dogs are to stop the local negro's from being tempted to swim across the mote that protects the south side of the hotel and the northern access to the golf course. P.S. also watch out for the Chinese land mines that were brought in with the anti-negro riot gear.

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SP 1 year, 8 months ago

...... Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd Will Be Meeting The Privy Counsel In Short Order ......

Anyone that believes Sarkis will allow this blithering idiot of a PM to cause him to simply walk away from a $Billion needs to sign up with the PLP to have their heads examined!

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djgross 1 year, 8 months ago

When are foreign workers going to be paid back salary and severance; Bahamian workers were paid? What is the value of a contact in the Bahamas if the Government sanctions this sort of discrimination?

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ThomasLewis 1 year, 8 months ago

Let us pray that this is not an election ploy!!!

At the looks of it it really looks shady though.

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ConchyJ 1 year, 8 months ago

Shouldn't the expat employees and other vendors receive the funds that are due to them if the property was "handed over" or since it has not technically been sold we will have to wait some more!!

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happyfly 1 year, 8 months ago

These crooks must see the writing on the wall with the elections coming up and everybody hating them. I bet this wont be the last thing they try and push through or stuff in their pockets before they feel the boot up they a...

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dfitzerl 1 year, 8 months ago

The lead up to this day was much to be desired. Government should have never interfered in a private matter.

Having said that, the questioning of a temporary occupancy certificate and the "handover " and phased opening of a resort that has not closed its purchase agreement is not unusual.

You receive temporary occupancy certificates for the portions that are complete. In a multbuilding complex a phased occupancy is normal.

As for handover to new "owners" anything can be contractually agreed to subject to terms. The purchase closing may be subject to securing an occupancy certificate for the entire resort. Does not mean that the seller will not allow the purchaser to make use on a phased basis.

Let's remain objective in our assessments.

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