By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A top Royal Caribbean executive has confirmed it is working with Mexican port developer, ITM Group, on a proposal to redevelop the Grand Lucayan that could create 2,000 jobs.
Michael Bayley, the cruise line’s president and chief executive, said: “We’re currently working on a proposal. We’re in a period of negotiation. With our partner we are working on what we think would be a very exciting proposal that will really rejuvenate Freeport as a destination, and we’re quite excited about the opportunity.”
While giving few details about the partnership’s plans and scope, Mr Bayley said their offer - if accepted - would mark a first for the company in terms of involevment in resort development. “Certainly, in terms of this idea we call destination development, it’s new for us to go into that side of the business,” he said.
“Our partner, which is ITM, which is a Mexican company, has more experience in that side of the business. I think that is why we have come together to develop this. We have been in discussions with other groups in terms of the operation and the licensing of the hotel property. I think people will be quite excited with the proposal that will come forward.
“We haven’t come forward with a final proposal to the government; we are in very productive discussions, but we do have to come up with a final product.” Mr Bayley said the ITM/Royal Caribbean proposal, if selected out of the 60 offers to redevelop the Grand Lucayan, could create close to 2,000 jobs.
ITM and Royal Caribbean, which were also together in a bid to operate/manage Nassau’s cruise port, are planning to add additional cruise berths in Freeport Harbour as well as develop water-based adventure theme parks at both the harbour and Grand Lucayan. Their proposal was exclusively revealed by Tribune Business.
Mr Bayley, meanwhile, dismissed concerns that the failure of the cruise lines to win the bid to manage/operate Prince George Wharf would result in decreased calls to Nassau, telling Tribune Business: “Everything is going to be great for The Bahamas.”
He added: “I think what people need to do is start looking into the future. What we see is when you look at the cruise ship orders there is a lot of capacity coming online. Everything is going to be great for The Bahamas.
“What we need to do now is work together to develop destinations in The Bahamas so that we can bring more people. We have got plenty of people to bring, and that’s what we need to focus on; working to build the destination. Whether it’s Nassau, Freeport or the private destinations, there are plenty of tourists coming. The better we are prepared for that, the better we are all going to do.”
Mr Bayley, who on Friday addressed the Rotary Club of East Nassau, said of the cruise port’s planned $250m transformation under Global Ports Holding, said: “I personally think it’s a great thing that is going to be a unified attempt to make some changes to downtown Nassau, and get things to maybe a slightly different place.
“I think the plans are going to change somewhat. You’re going to have to go from concept to reality. I think there is going to be a period where everybody can participate, understand the plans and contribute to them. I think it’s going to be a huge opportunity for Nassau if we can collectively figure out how to make the destination more desirable.
“There are things that do have to change. It is a remarkably popular destination. One of the challenges or opportunities is that people are interested in coming, but they struggle with the actual delivery. I think collectively we can make a lot of improvements, and the development project is going to help with that.”
Mr Bayley added that Royal Caribbean is finalising its work on Coco Cay, its private island in the Berry Islands. “We have had a private destination in Coco Cay for over 25 years. We are now investing a quarter of a billion dollars ($250m) in Perfect Day, Coco Cay,” he reaffirmed.
“We are close to finalising all of the construction, and the work we are doing consists of two components; thrill and chill. It will have the tallest water slide in America, the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean, the biggest oasis lagoon fresh water pool in the Caribbean.
“We think this is a game changing concept as it relates to cruise destinations connected to private destinations. We’re very excited about that and we’re looking to that opening.”