Melia site set for $500m outlay on 600-room hotel


Tribune Business Editor


The Prime Minister yesterday revealed that Baha Mar’s owner plans to invest up to $500m in developing a new 600-room resort on the site of the old Melia Nassau Beach hotel.

Philip Davis KC, when asked to respond to Opposition charges that the multiple new tourism, airport and infrastructure projects just unveiled for Bimini and West Grand Bahama are designed to help win today’s by-election in the constituency, recalled how the Free National Movement (FNM) branded Baha Mar’s opening just prior to the 2017 general election as “fake”.

“It’s not unlike when they said Baha Mar would never open,” the Prime Minister recalled. “When it opened, it was a ‘fake opening’. Now look at what is happening, It’s flourishing. It is flourishing.

“Now, again, under my watch, they’re about to invest another $400m to $500m to develop another 600-room hotel having now taken down the old Melia hotel.” No details were provided on the number of construction and full-time jobs likely to be created.

Baha Mar and its owner, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (Bahamas), have yet to formally announce what their plans are for the oceanfront Cable Beach site now freed up by the Melia tear-down.

However, Mr Davis’ description is not that different from what Dion Bethell, Arawak Port Development Company’s (APD) president and chief financial officer, told Tribune Business of the post-Melia vision. “There’s some demolition going on there, and they’re forecast to develop rooms and residences. They’re expected to put up 400 rooms and 60 residences,” he said earlier this month.

The seven-acre, 694-room Melia property was around 45 years old, having been built in the late 1970s so that it could host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that took place in Nassau in the early 1980s.

CTFE was behind on the initial renovation schedule it set out for the Melia when it announced the property’s closure in mid-February 2021. It said then that the resort will close for two years to undergo a $100m renovation via a project that was to create some 150 construction jobs.

It added that the seven-acre, 694-room resort, which also featured 32 suites, was to undergo “a complete transformation” with rooms, common areas, restaurants and bars, and outdoor spaces including three freshwater pools included in the renovations. The property was to re-open in 2023, which will now clearly not happen.

Graeme Davis, Baha Mar’s president, said in late July that CTFE was waiting on “direction” from the Government so that it can determine its future plans for the seven-acre site that will soon be completely raised.

“I will say we are moving forward with our demolition,” he told a Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) meeting. “That is starting to come down. We’re expecting to have that completed by fall. We’re hopeful that we can work with the Government here on having future plans to announce.

“It really is right now with the Government, and hopefully we’ll have some direction soon that we can announce on future plans. We’re certainly hopeful that we can make a positive impact for the tourism product here in Nassau and certainly for the community.”

Robert Sands, the BHTA’s president, recently said the biggest obstacle to increasing stopover visitors is a reduction in available rooms by 25 percent. The reopening of the British Colonial hotel next month will increase New Providence’s room inventory by 350 rooms alone. Inventory has also been impacted by the closure of the Melia Nassau Beach Resort, and its subsequent demolition, and the Atlantis Beach Towers closure for Somewhere Else.

He said: “We have over 35 to 40 percent market share of all cruise visitors to the Caribbean. Our biggest opportunity lies in increasing our stopover visitors, and that has been hampered most directly by a reduction in available hotel rooms. Some 25 percent of our inventory is down as a result of a number of reasons.

“We are aware of Melia, we are aware of hotels in Grand Bahama, Paradise Island. Fortunately, we have British Colonial coming online in December of this year, which will bring an additional 350 rooms to inventory.”

Mr Davis, meanwhile, yesterday defended this week’s Heads of Agreement signing for the $100m Ocean Cay expansion by Mediterranean Shipping Cruises (MSC). He argued that the deal did “not pop up in the last two weeks” in a bid to influence the by-election’s outcome, as the Government had been negotiating terms with the global shipping giant for the past nine months.

The Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement, said the Ocean Cay expansion is designed to build on MSC Cruises’ initial $400m investment and take place over two phases, with completion set for 2024. The project includes a new Marine Conservation Centre specialising in coral research, upgraded facilities, amenities, a deepening of the marina, the creation of a solar farm, and a sustainable, biophilic landscaping plan.


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