Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AS Baha Mar celebrates the one year anniversary of its opening, Tourism Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar said the resort has been the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the country's tourism industry.
Mr D'Aguilar was once a major critic of Baha Mar and the steps that landed it under the ownership of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises. But yesterday he said the government is "delighted" Baha Mar "continues to come on stream in a more meaningful way than it was a year ago".
"Anytime you bring or you propose to bring that many rooms into your inventory and you bring on name brands such as the Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood, it allows you to create excitement about your destination," he told The Tribune.
"It causes all the other properties to say 'oh, we have this new project coming on, we have to up our game, up the condition of our property.' We've seen Atlantis, Riu, Warwick, all upgrading their properties to accommodate or to deal and take into consideration the improved product because of Baha Mar coming on stream."
He added: "I believe the opening in April of last year was premature and probably done because there was an impending general election and the previous government wanted to paint a picture in the minds of the Bahamian voter that the project was further along than it really was. Over the last 365 days, Baha Mar has come on stream full force and enjoyed the significant benefits that a robust US economy has allowed them to enjoy.
"Other items that have caused Baha Mar to succeed and exceed its expectations were the exceptionally harsh winter in the northwest (US) and the effects of Hurricane Irma and Maria on the southern Caribbean that caused visitors that would naturally go to those destinations to come to The Bahamas. All of this has come together to allow Baha Mar to continue to ramp up its employment and to exceed the budgeted occupancy that they hoped for this year. The Christmas and the first quarter of this year were exceptional. As they continue to open up their food and beverage options and roll out more rooms they will grow from strength to strength."
Baha Mar has hired 300 people for the Rosewood hotel ahead of its spring opening and intends to hire about 100 more people for that hotel, Senior Vice President of Administration & External Relations Robert Sands said on Friday during a media event.
The opening of Rosewood will mark the culmination of the project after years of great controversy and uncertainty.
"Since opening its doors for the first time on April 21, 2017, Baha Mar has captivated leisure travellers and industry professionals alike, impressing resort guests with the largest casino and ESPA spa in the Caribbean, along with contemporary and stylish accommodations at Grand Hyatt and SLS; world-class dining; marine life experiences at The BEACH Sanctuary; Bahamian art and culture at The Current; the state-of-the-art performing arts and convention centre and the highest levels of tennis and golf at the Peter Burwash International Baha Mar Racquet Club and the 18- hole Jack Nicklaus-designed Signature Royal Blue golf course," Baha Mar said in a statement.
"Across the three luxury hotel brands, Grand Hyatt, SLS and the upcoming Rosewood, Baha Mar will feature 2,300 rooms, suites and villas, come this spring. The three-phase opening of the resort destination initially led with Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, comprised of 1,800 rooms and suites, followed by SLS Baha Mar's 299 rooms and suites, and will conclude with Rosewood's debut," the resort added.
"Baha Mar's opening year has greatly contributed to growth of the economy in The Bahamas."
The resort has more than 4,000 workers, steadily hiring new employees throughout 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, with plans to grow its employee base even further to 5,000 associates as occupancy numbers increase.
The resort also noted its foundation is focused on community support and assisted with relief following last year's hurricane season. The foundation has signed on to a three-year title sponsorship of the Bahamas National Basketball Team, allowing them to compete in the qualifying rounds of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, and the sponsorship of local artists and performers through Baha Mar's work with The Current and Valley Boys Junkanoo band, among other philanthropic ventures.
Meanwhile, according to Mr D'Aguilar, "all the tourism operations have enjoyed first quarters with exceptional occupancies."
"In March, the Lynden Pindling International Airport experienced the highest number of passengers in its ...history," he said. "They never processed as many passengers as they did in March 2018 and did so without any drama."