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Cruise port to create 350 jobs via $35m water park

The Nassau Cruise Port

The Nassau Cruise Port

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Nassau Cruise Port is aiming to create a further 350 full-time jobs through a new $35m water park attraction that is targeted for completion within the next 18 months.

Mike Maura, the downtown cruise gateway’s chief executive, told Tribune Business  the planned expansion is part of a drive to provide more “family-oriented” amenities as well constantly refresh and evolve its product offering to maintain the facility as “best in class in the Caribbean”.

Confirming that the pool-based water park will be constructed behind the amphitheatre towards the western side of Nassau Cruise Port’s existing property, he added that although no construction start date has been confirmed the approval process is “well underway”. It will also feature associated food and beverage offerings.

“We’re looking at an additional investment; a pool water park investment,” Mr Maura revealed to this newspaper, “that is going to provide an experience in the downtown area at Nassau Cruise Port so people have something to do that is more recreational and family-oriented.

“A lot of the experiences these visitors can participate in are adult-oriented. Through this investment, which is a pool experience, we intend to focus on families. You take the Disney cruise ships, where the vast majority of folks are families travelling with children. We want them to have experiences that everyone can participate in and enjoy.”

Asked how much Nassau Cruise Port plans to invest in the new attraction, which follows swiftly behind its $330m redevelopment that was officially opened last year, Mr Maura replied: “The total is around $35m. We’d like to see it completed in the next year-and-a-half. We have cleared the site but have not started construction.

“It will be right behind the amphitheatre; the green space behind the amphitheatre. It will be in the shape of a finger circle. Once the project is completed, it will create 350 jobs. That’s a significant increase in the number of jobs that will be happening at Nassau Cruise Port. It will be a best-in-class experience.”

With a building permit number already obtained for the water park, Mr Maura added that it was critical for the Nassau Cruise Port and wider Bahamian tourism industry to constantly refresh and reinvigorate its product offering so as to differentiate this nation from Caribbean and global competitors and give visitors something new on which to spend their money.

“We have to get our approvals,” the Nassau Cruise Port chief confirmed. “The process is well underway. We have the permit number for the project. It’s going through the final approval process. 

“With Nassau Cruise Port and tourism in general, tourism is dynamic. The world doesn’t stand still. Offerings don’t stand still. The authenticity and differentiation of destinations will continue to evolve, and so must Nassau. So Nassau Cruise Port will continue to look at our product as part of the downtown destination, and we will continue to tweak and evolve to maintain best-in-class in the region.”

The cruise port’s planned water park will likely be competing for passenger traffic with the similar water-based attractions at Atlantis and Baha Mar, as well as those available to visitors on board their vessels. The new amenity may also fuel concern among cruise tourism-dependent businesses that their customer base will be further eroded as passengers will have even less incentive to leave the cruise port’s property.

Nassau Cruise Port’s expansion comes amid Royal Caribbean’s western Paradise Island site clearance in preparation for its Royal Beach Club project, which is expected to accommodate up to 2,700 persons daily, but Mr Maura told Tribune Business the sheer volume of passenger arrivals makes it impossible for all to stay at the port.

“We are the largest tourism gateway in The Bahamas given the volume of people arriving at Nassau Cruise Port,” he said. “Our facility is not large enough to coral 30,000 people that arrive on those ships daily. We are very much in the business of facilitating the safe distribution of visitors throughout New Providence and downtown Nassau as well.”

Nassau Cruise Port set a daily record of 29,316 visitors in December 2023 and hosted seven cruise vessels at the same time in March 2024. Mr Maura revealed that the port is “ahead of budget” for the 2024 half-year, with passenger numbers for the six months to end-June standing at 2.8m and representing a 24.03 percent year-over increase compared to the same period in 2023.

He added that cruise arrivals for the 2024 half-year were 39.15 percent of the same period in 2019, the last pre-COVID year, when some 2.012m passengers set foot in Nassau. For the first six months of 2023, some 2.257m passengers arrived in the Bahamian capital.

“In the first six months of 2024 there have been approximately 800,000 more cruise passenger arrivals than the same period in 2019, and more than 500,000 over 2023,” Mr Maura said. He added that the first week in July benefited from five additional cruise ship calls, and an extra 15,000 passengers, due to diversions caused by Hurricane Beryl’s passage through the southern Caribbean.

“We’re ahead of budget, so demand for Nassau and, by extension, the demand for The Bahamas continues to be very strong,” he added. “Nassau serves as a strategic destination within a Bahamas itinerary as well as a Caribbean itinerary.

“All the substantial improvements we made in the downtown waterfront, along with the investment in infrastructure, will have a material impact on vessel and passenger count against pre-development numbers. Our numbers are strong, and we are ahead of target through June 30, 2024, and we would expect to finish the year very strongly as well.”

Mr Maura reaffirmed Nassau Cruise Port’s expectations that it will receive more than five million passengers per year in 2024. It had previously said it is targeting around 5.3m-5.4m passenger arrivals this year, and the near 2.8m received during the first-half puts it on pace to achieve this goal and perhaps exceed it.

The extent of the cruise passenger arrivals increase is also in line with that identified by the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation. Latia Duncombe, tourism’s director-general, last Thursday unveiled a presentation showing that, based on first port of call only, passenger arrivals to Nassau and Paradise Island for the five months to end-May 2024 were up 23.2 percent over 2023 at 1.676m.

And, when it came to per capita cruise passenger spending in Nassau/Paradise Island, Mrs Duncombe’s presentation showed the average has risen by almost $20 or 20.5 percent compared to pre-COVID numbers. Average per person spend in the destination totalled $111.5 in 2023 compared to $92.5 in 2019.

Mr Maura told Tribune Business that, while this data shows The Bahamas is “gaining traction and the momentum is definitely positive”, there remains much work to do to drive this nation into the Caribbean’s highest-yielding cruise destinations. He reiterated that “it’s on us to create reasons for someone to spend their money” in the destination.

“The increase in expenditure was, and has been, a key objective of the Ministry of Tourism in partnership with the Nassau Cruise Port,” Mr Maura added, “the expectation being that as we develop the commercial experience, the adventure experiences, generating more things for people to do, more food and beverage for people to enjoy, there’s that opportunity for these guests to spend more money.

“While the $20 increase is positive news, we still have a lot of work ahead of us and we’re still not top of the chart compared to other destinations at $150, $175, $200. We still have work to do, but the good news is we’re making traction and the momentum is definitely positive.”

While the Nassau Cruise Port does not have a per capita spending target as “it’s not something we can track”, Mr Maura added: “What we support is more experiences, more things for our guests to do. Some of our community partners have complained, and do complain, about the spending numbers from cruise tourism. 

“I share the disappointment that the numbers are not higher but, at the same time, I’ve shared it’s on us as a destination to create a reason for someone to spend their money. They don’t owe us a dollar in their pocket when they land. It’s up to us to create the value proposition to have them reach into their pocket and want to spend more money.

“We have to do that through a unique product mix, introducing our culture and something different from other destinations in the region and what they have at home. That’s on us. It’s up to us to be so unique, special and interesting that someone wants to spend their money in Nassau,” the cruise port chief added.

“That should be the objective for us all in tourism and tourism marketing; that we do something unique and special to grab a greater share of regional tourism expenditure not to mention global expenditure.”

 

Comments

gumbolimbo 2 weeks ago

They paved Paradise and put in a water park!!

ExposedU2C 2 weeks ago

BREAKING NEWS

Insiders at Atlantis say it expects to lay off 350+ Bahamians as a result of the revenue losses it will experience from the proposed nearby Nassau Cruise Port water park attraction.

realitycheck242 2 weeks ago

Remember, Baha Mar was supposed to take all of Atlantis guest when it opened, it aint happen. The point was suppose to put the Hilton hotel and junkanoo beach out of business, it aint happen. The Nassau cruise port was suppose the cause the businesses on bay street to collaspe. It aint happen. The tourism numbers are growing. The RCI beach club when completed can co-exist with all of them when finished

ExposedU2C 2 weeks ago

Pray tell, what is happening to the great bonanza of wealth for Bahamians that should be accompanying all of this prosperity you speak of? Why is our nation's unemployment rate so high, especially among younger Bahamians? Why are so many Bahamian families living at or below the poverty level and struggling to survive in our country today? And lest you forget, Atlantis has been for sale for many years now with no interested buyers knocking on the door because of its poor cash flow situation and enormous capital expenditure needs given its age.

IslandWarrior 2 weeks ago

Boy, I can only laugh at us; in our faces, these guys are taking not only the bread from out of everybody's mouths but fucking our wives and daughters in one strike. ...go for gold is all I can say, go for gold.

DonAnthony 2 weeks ago

This project is 50% owned by Bahamians, and as a Bahamian shareholder I say Godspeed and bring it on. Seems many criticizing this project would have rather our port remain the back water dump it was? We can’t eat sand or drink saltwater! We need more tourism income producing projects owned by Bahamians. I am proud that this port is now world class and successful and am proud as a Bahamian to be sharing in the wealth generation of our Bahamaland. Hopefully the RCL beach club will have the same Bahamian ownership and success.

ExposedU2C 2 weeks ago

The 50% of NCP owned by Bahamians is locked up in a so called Bahamas Sovereign Wealth Fund that is being bled to death by fees of every kind imposed by the greedy Bahamian vultures who own CFAL and who promote Public-Private-Partnerships as a means to fleece the Bahamian public of valuable national assets like the downtown port for mere pennies on the dollar of true value. And you can bet that 50% Bahamian ownership of NCP ends up being held by the small number of controlling vultures when all is said and done. The de facto giveaway of the Nassau cruise port by our corrupt politicians was never intended to spread economic wealth to a great number of Bahamians.

And now our corrupt politicians are wheeling and dealing with the greedy Snake and his cabal of marauders who seeking to gain control of BPL's power generation and grid distribution assets for mere pennies on the dollar of true value using Public-Private-Partnerships that will result in BPL/BEC's debts being socialized and borne by Bahamian taxpayers while all of the upside profits from an energy sector monopoly go into the pockets Snake and his cabal.

John 2 weeks ago

Driven by greed

Sickened 1 week, 6 days ago

If smart, rich people weren't greedy then the human race would never advance. After all you can't depend on the lazy mindless masses to come up with an idea and then pool together to make it happen. You see what the male masses do everyday. They drive their girlfriend to work in HER car and then go sit on the corner waiting for one of their boys to swing by with a cold one after he finished selling a bag of weed to a tourist.

ExposedU2C 1 week, 6 days ago

And who do think is responsible for the creation of the lazy dumbed-down mindless masses you speak of? The corrupt super wealthy in the private sector and their mutual beneficial unholy alliance with our corrupt politicians is the root cause of the crony capitalism that greatly enriches only a few in our society while denying opportunities for everyone else. The elites like cheap labour but not competition.

Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, most Bahamians have become victims of a hideous form of neo-feudalism evidenced by the enormous and ever increasing divide between the few "haves" and the many "have nots" in our society. The lack of a fair and level playing field is by design of the few "haves" who are in cahoots with our corrupt politicians to deny as many impoverished Bahamians as possible the opportunities necessary to escape the clutches of poverty. Our nation would be much better off with a much greater number of Bahamians enjoying opportunities to improve their quality of life as opposed to being reduced to cheap labour for the few feudal lords.

Crony capitalism facilitated by corrupt politicians inefficiently distributes capital and robs others of the equal opportunities they should have to create and spread wealth throughout a society.

ThisIsOurs 1 week, 6 days ago

So Royal Caribbean will take 3000 of the cruise passengers who dare to come off the ship clutching their purse and the cruise port will take the rest. If this govt had any vision they would have bulldozed Arawak cay and created something clean,well planned and beautiful. But who knows maybe the dysfunction benefits them. I still dont understand how people eat at Potters cay dock with the smell of raw sewerage in the air 6 out of 7 days.

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