DEPUTY Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Davis administration signed a heads of agreement yesterday with Azul Destinations Ltd and Calypso Cove Destinations Ltd for the development of an upscale resort and cruise port for South Long Island, estimated to cost some $250m.
Speaking during a signing ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said the multimillion-dollar project will consist of a 200-bedroom hotel, mega yacht marina facilities, interior pools, casinos, a cruise port, cruise pier and 18-hole golf course, among other amenities.
Mr Cooper also expressed optimism that the project will attract more investments to the island, serving as a major economic boost.
“We are pleased to say that the project will employ thousands of Bahamians and independent Bahamian firms so this is good for employment, but also good for entrepreneurship and the empowerment of Bahamians,” he added.
Carlos Torres de Navarra, principle of Azul Destinations, explained how officials brainstormed the development which they waited for eight months to be approved.
“We all had an idea for a destination within a very close proximity of what is the cruise capital of the world, and that’s the state of Florida and when we saw this property, we did our assessment, we noticed that from an environmental perspective, which was the most important thing to us that there was no roadblocks and we started the process of validating the site,” he said.
However, Mr Navarra said it wasn’t the site of development he fell in love with but rather the island itself and its people.
“I think I speak for all of us from the developer standpoint, we believe that we will have an amazing opportunity for Long Islanders in terms of employment, in terms of economic development for the entire island as well as neighbouring islands,” he said.
“And more importantly, The Bahamas product will be something that will be I think accentuated and I think that from our perspective, our focus will be to sell and to promote a Bahamian product.”
Some 300 people are set to be employed during the project’s construction phase which will take place over a two-year period.
Officials are also hoping to break ground by the end of next year.
In the meantime, Mr Cooper said his ministry will continue to work on plans for the expansion of the Long Island airport which he said will be a key requirement for the development.
“Later this year or early next year, we will have the request for proposals in relation to the airport. Suffice to say, we have many investors who are interested in participating in this process,” he said.
“It is essential for the development of Long Island. The government is committed that it happens in the shortest time frame.”
Since assuming office last year, the Davis administration has already approved some $5bn in investment projects for The Bahamas.
“There’s more to come,” the tourism, investments and aviation minister said. “There’s no stopping, no slowing down. We see a consistent demand for new developments and new investments in The Bahamas and I am very excited that this is happening for Long Island.”