That’s the message given to Irish Travel Trade News by Maria Grazia Marino, District Sales Manager – UK & Ireland, Bahamas Tourist Office, on her visit to Ireland last week, as investor confidence in the Bahamas grows and new hotels and attractions come on stream.
Since the onset of 2014, the Bahamas has experienced substantial expansion of its tourism product, including Club Med’s US$90 million hotel and airport expansion in San Salvador and an expansion to the Leon Levy Nature Plant Preserve in Eleuthera. In addition, Memories Resort on Grand Bahama Island opened its doors in March 2014 after a multi-million dollar refurbishment and Baha Mar’s $3.5 billion expansion, the biggest investment in the Caribbean, is scheduled to open at the end of the year in Nassau/Paradise Island.
With such growth and development happening in an already successful destination, as echoed by its nearly six million annual visitors, the Bahamas also recently received an open letter of endorsement by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation as a responsible leader in sustainable tourism development. The Golden Book of Tourism recognition resulted from decisions made by Heads of State and Heads of Government who believe that tourism is a transformative force in social economic development.
Baha Mar’s $3.5 billion resort will feature an elite collection of hotel brands with gaming, entertainment, private residences, shopping and natural attractions that reflect an authentic Bahamian experience.
The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, with 1,000 rooms, is the centrepiece of the resort, and includes a 10,000 sq m Las Vegas-style casino – the largest in the Caribbean region. A 700-room Grand Hyatt, a 300-room Mondrian, a 200-room Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, and the 694-room Melia complete the accommodations at Baha Mar.
Amenities will include the 18-hole, 72-par championship Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, 20,000 sq m of combined convention facilities including a 2,000-seat performing arts centre and an art gallery with the largest curated collection of Bahamian art, more than 30 restaurants, nightclubs and bars, two spas, including the 3,000 sq m destination spa ESPA at Baha Mar, designer retail boutiques, a beachfront sanctuary with native Bahamian flora and fauna, 14 distinctive pool experiences, and a private island (www.bahamar.com/welcome-to-the-new-riviera/).
Meliá Hotels International: On 1st December 2013, Meliá took over the operation of the Meliá Nassau Beach Resort, formerly the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. The 694-room Meliá at Baha Mar is a luxury leisure development that includes multiple spaces for meetings and conventions.
The resort is expected to undergo extensive renovations that should be completed with the opening of Baha Mar, scheduled for December 2014 (www.bahamar.com/welcome-to-the-new-riviera/).
Mahogany Hill Hotel
Situated on the western end of New Providence, the $23 million boutique hotel project, Mahogany Hill, will provide a setting of intimacy away from the city.
Construction on the development in New Providence Island started in August 2013 and is expected to be completed within 18 months. The hotel will have 33 rooms for guests, as well as a spa, pool, theatre, and restaurant. The Bahamian-owned property is also set to feature cultural entertainment and will include a collection of Bahamian artwork only on display throughout the hotel (http://mahogany-house.com)
Grand Bahama: Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort, the former Reef at Grand Lucayan, officially opened in March 2014, after a multi-million dollar rebuild. The 5-star deluxe all-inclusive beachfront resort is ideal for families, couples and golf enthusiasts.
Memories has 460 suites and a wide variety of facilities including a modern sports bar, five unique dining experiences, teen’s club, kids club with a themed aqua park, golf and a casino (www.memoriesresorts.com).
Club Med Columbus Isle: The Government of the Bahamas, operators of Club Med and Sand and Ocean Investments Ltd, recently signed an agreement to refurbish and expand the Club Med Resort. The $90 million project will comprise 360 new luxury condo-hotel units, staff housing and a 125-room boutique hotel, all of which will be managed by the European luxury resort operator. The project is expected to be completed within four years.
Sand and Ocean will also upgrade the airport in San Salvador to include navigational aides, security, terminal expansion and ground handling that will improve domestic, international and private flights.
Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is ranked as the best airport in the Caribbean by Caribbean Journal, completed its four-year, $409 million redevelopment and expansion in October 2013.
The 60,600 sq m ultra-modern facility can accommodate 50% more passengers than before and is equipped with 24 retail stores, 16 restaurants, bars and lounges, US customs and immigration clearance, as well as connective domestic and international departure terminals.
The airport can accommodate large aircraft, inclusive of A380 jumbo airliners.
New Programmes and Adventures
Leon Levy Nature Plant Preserve: This 10-hectare ecologically sustainable sanctuary, created jointly by the Bahamas National Trust and the Leon Levy Foundation, is a must see attraction in Eleuthera.
The Preserve features thousands of native trees, including Bahamian medicinal plants and those that are poisonous, as well as a mangrove boardwalk, fresh water wetlands, orchid strewn trails, a tower that affords a 360-degre view of the island, glimpses of native birds, including the rare Kirtland’s Warbler, and a meeting facility.
Graycliff Heritage Village: Graycliff Hotel has begun s $25 million revitalisation of historic West Hill Street, including an old convent, its chapel and the former Mountbatten home. The completed project will transform the area into a pedestrians-only, old town experience with cobble stone streets.
The iconic luxury Nassau hotel has introduced Humidor Piazza to West Hill Street, featuring Giotto Pizzeria and the Beer Garden – this is in addition to the existing Humidor Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse. The property has also opened Graycliff Chocolatier, an on-site chocolate factory and Graycliff Coffee, a visitor-orientated coffee roasting company. Plans for a barista café and bistro, space for local artisans and a new 75-room hotel have also been announced (www.graycliff.com).
John Watling’s Distillery: John Watling’s, the spirit of the Bahamas, welcomes guests for a complimentary tour at its home, the Buena Vista Estate, in Downtown Nassau. The historic estate, founded in 1789 and overlooking the harbour, is the site where Bahamians handcraft John Watling’s small-batch Pale, Amber and Buena Vista rums.
At the estate, John Watling’s features a museum-like tour, shopping and signature Bahamian cocktails at its Red Turtle Tavern. Within walking distance from the cruise ship port, John Watling’s Distillery is located on Delancy Street and is open from 9am-5pm, seven days a week (www.johnwatlings.com or www.facebook.com/johnwatlings).
Bay Street Marina: A new $6 million Bay Street Marina, in the heart of historic Nassau, offers a 90-slip facility capable of handling vessels up to 46 metres in length. The marina, located on Nassau Harbour, also has a floating dock for temporary tie-ups for restaurant-goers arriving by boat.
Bay Street Marina rates are $7.50 per metre/per day with long-term leases available through Bahamas Marina Management Company (www.baystreetmarina.com).
About the Bahamas
The islands of the Bahamas have a place in the sun for everyone, from Nassau and Paradise Island to Grand Bahama to the Abaco Islands, the Exumas, Harbour Island, Long Island and others. Each island has its own personality and attractions for a variety of vacation styles with some of the world’s best scuba diving, fishing, sailing, boating, as well as shopping and dining.
The destination offers an easily accessible tropical getaway and provides convenience for travellers with preclearance through US customs and immigration, and the Bahamian dollar is at par with the US dollar.
For more information on travel packages, activities and accommodations visit www.bahamas.com.uk or look for The Bahamas on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.