Concerns that hotel tax breaks unduly exploited


Tribune Business Reporter


A BAHAMIAN businessman has voiced concerns that foreign investors are unduly exploiting Hotels Encouragement Act incentives to obtain tax breaks on construction materials for large vacation rental properties.

Ramon Darville, Darville Lumber’s general manager, told Tribune Business he is concerned about overseas investors accessing tax breaks designed to encourage resort investment to instead build “monster” homes at much-reduced costs.

“I know of two homes being built right now by foreigners that are huge homes, but they clearly are not hotels,” he asserted. “These people are bringing in their goods under the Hotel Encouragement Act and it has to stop. They have up to 10 bedroom home,s and I know a couple of foreigners who are building more than two homes.

“These are not subdivisions. They are building them in different places. It’s just that the houses are so huge and I don’t think they fit the criteria of the Hotels Encouragement Act the way I have read it.”

Separately, speaking to the proposed $73m Club Ki’ama project on Elizabeth Island, which is now seeking its Certificate of Environmental Compliance, Mr Darville said: “I want to know when Bahamians will get the same treatment foreigners get for their projects.

“They are under the Hotels Encouragement Act and they are allowed to build. I want the same thing for my development when I get ready to launch before the end of the year. From what I heard it was high-end homes. So we will get a couple of jobs off of that. I wonder how much things the Government is going to give them, and if they are going to bring in everything duty free?”

O’Brian Strachan, owner/ operator of Strachan’s Service Station, said he “welcomes” developments such as Club Ki’ama. “I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as it creates a few jobs and more opportunities. Elizabeth Island had a personal thing on it, but now it is really going to blow up,” he added.

Of the 85 long-term jobs that project is expected to create, he added: “That’s probably long-term and not for the construction of the hotel. When you are working on an island like that you have to take into consideration the sailing back and forth as well as the lack of electricity over there. So they will need quite a few people involved to ensure the project becomes a success.”

The Ki’ama Bahamas project, in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) viewed by Tribune Business, said its plans to develop a 36-acre community on the southern third of Elizabeth Island will create permanent employment for 80-85 Bahamians as well as 45-60 local jobs during the three to four-year construction period. It is aiming to attract 36,000 guests per year at full build-out of a “zero carbon” residential and yacht community just three miles from Georgetown.

Describing their vision for a “first-class, fully sustainable, zero carbon, solar-powered residence and yacht community”, the developer consortium said: “Resort guests and owners will have the ability to enjoy the world’s most pristine and undiscovered destinations without negatively impacting the environment.....

“Ki’ama Bahamas’ project construction timeline is anticipated to be up to five years. Total development costs are anticipated to be up to $73m. At full build, the project anticipates annually accommodating up to 36,000 guests spanning nearly 10,000 occupied room nights, or a projection of nearly 5,000 round trips to The Bahamas. The annual guest projection equates to roughly 100 average guests per day on both land and sea.

“Even if all guests were on land, this would equate to approximately three guests per acre. Despite the low-density nature of the project’s occupancy, to mitigate potential impact to the environment during operations by utilising electric golf carts, restriction of single-use plastics, significant way-finding signage to ensure guests remain on gravel roads or established trails, and abundant waste and recycling receptacles reducing potential litter.”

Research by Tribune Business revealed that the Ki’ama Bahamas development is a joint venture between three entities who have formed Ecoisland Development. They are Mauritius-headquartered Silent Resorts, billed as “the world’s first integrated land/sea, ultra-sustainable, private, secure, 100 percent solar-powered, luxury and adventure brand”, together with Equity Residences, a real estate investment fund, and Elite Alliance, a residence club owner.

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