By NATARIO McKENZIE
and NEIL HARTNELL
THE Minister of Tourism is encouraging Sandals to execute on long-established plans to expand its Emerald Bay property, suggesting that this will make “the economics better”.Dionisio D’Aguilar told Tribune Business that his conversations with the resort developer’s top executives suggested that Sandals was “very interested” in growing its Exuma property, possibly through the addition of a resort bearing its Beaches brand. “I met with Adam Stewart [Sandals chief executive] down in Jamaica, and encouraged him to make additional investments in Exuma,” Mr D’Aguilar told Tribune Business.
“They seem to be very interested in it, primarily because I don’t think they have sufficient room inventory for the infrastructure they have in place. They need more rooms to cover the fixed costs.
“I think a proposal has been put into the Bahamas Investment Authority, and if it hasn’t I hope they do, so they can undertake expansion of that world-class facility they have down there.”
Sandals has sufficient land available for expansion, and Mr D’Aguilar added: “Exuma is one of our most inviting Family Island destinations, and I think that they’re continually interested in doing it just to make the economics better for the whole project.
“They run very high occupancies there, so certainly there is a need and demand for extra rooms. That market is seemingly very popular for them.”
Sandals Emerald Bay’s general manager, Jeremy Mutton, reaffirmed that the Caribbean resort chain remains committed to developing a Beaches Resort at the property “when the time is right and when we have the right support in place, such as airlift”.
He added, though, that no expansion dates had been set, and did not indicate whether any application was before the BIA. Mr Mutton, though, said Mr Stewart had confirmed Sandals’ intentions at the Great Exuma Golf Classic earlier this month.
“He affirmed that Sandals is here to stay, and when asked about further plans on Exuma he noted that the expansion plans are well-documented and that Sandals is still keen,” Mr Mutton said.
“We have to do so when the time is right and when we have the right support in place such as airlift. There are no definitives as far as dates, but the chief executive reiterated last week both his commitment to our presence here and commitment and desire to expand here.”
Sandals Emerald Bay is anticipating strong occupancies for the winter season, having finished 2017 with high occupancies after picking up business due to the impact of Hurricane Irma across the Caribbean.
“Early indications are that it’s going to be quite a good winter season,” Mr Mutton said. “There is still a fair amount of competition in the market. We are continuing to do what we can from a marketing standpoint.
“We are anticipating good occupancies for the first part of the year. We ended 2017 very well. There were guests who had been displaced from other Sandals properties or elsewhere, and found themselves at Emerald Bay.”