By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHA Mar yesterday unveiled its $25 million marketing campaign to drive new year demand, telling Tribune Business it was eyeing a "very strong 2018".
Graeme Davis, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) Bahamas president, told Tribune Business: "This specific campaign is a $25 million investment.
"That's just Baha Mar as a destination; that does not include marketing by the Grand Hyatt, SLS or Rosewood.
"We have an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism for a co-operative effort. They are making an initial investment of $4 million, as well as $10 million for next year."
Mr Davis said Baha Mar was targeting the North American, Latin American and Asian markets for visitors long-term. "Having global brands, we have the opportunity to reach out to a much broader audience and work with tourism stakeholders to ensure we are attracting new customers to the Bahamas," he added. Concerns have been raised over Baha Mar's low occupancy numbers, with Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism, this week expressing his frustration over the pace of the $4.2 billion project's ramp-up to full opening.
However, Mr Davis told Tribune Business: "Our numbers are looking very strong for 2018. "We are pleased with the progress we are making for 2018." He said Baha Mar currently has just over 3,000 employees, with that number growing steadily. "We plan to be up to 4,000 by the end of this year, and going into the winter season of 2018," Mr Davis added.
"As we open up the Rosewood and start to grow occupancy even more, we will get up to over 5,000 employees."
He said Baha Mar's SLS resort is set to open November 14. Mr Davis said he did not expect any issues with obtaining the resort's full occupancy certificate. "Right now we have a temporary certificate of occupancy, which you can operate under indefinitely," he added.
"Obviously there are minor items to finish in order to apply for the certificate of occupancy. The final item, which was delaying the certificate of occupancy, has been accomplished and so we don't see any issues with getting our certificate of occupancy but, again, that does not prevent us from operating today."
CTFE, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate owned by the Cheng family, has until December 1, 2017, to complete its acquisition of Baha Mar from the project's financier, the China Export-Import Bank.
The closing hinges on China Construction America (CCA), the project's contractor, completing the remaining $700 million construction work.
CCA, in legal filings relating to its dispute with a Florida-based lounge chair supplier, revealed that its 'substantial completion' date for Baha Mar was October 15. There has been no indication as to whether this target was hit, but CTFE's phased opening strategy continues to proceed with no sign of any problems.