Sign Up for Our Monthly Caribbean Newsletter
I didn’t know what to expect for my first-ever trip to the Bahamas. But I admit one thing: I wasn’t expecting to feel a lively energy palpating in the air immediately after stepping off the plane at Nassau International Airport. And I’m not talking about the Junkanoo dancers. I’m talking about the tangible excitement surrounding Baha Mar, the 1,000-acre resort complex scheduled for a grand opening in late spring 2015.
I viewed the site when it was largely in construction mode, about six months prior to preview openings, which will begin in December 2014. Not even the dust could hide the ambitious scope of the project, which will significantly expand Nassau’s tourism infrastructure.
Situated on the northern end of Nassau on Cable Beach, the complex is in an area that is relatively undeveloped for large-scale tourism. Baha Mar will occupy more than 1,000 acres and will include four on-property hotels from different brands, a 100,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, more than 30 restaurants, a Lenny Kravitz-designed nightclub, two spas and much more. Total cost for the development is estimated at $3.5 billion.
The 2,200 guestrooms in the four new hotels will boost the island’s hotel inventory by 25 percent, according to Fred Lounsberry, CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board. While the complex will be family friendly, Lounsberry said Baha Mar is primarily designed for couples that are attracted to the luxury resort experience on the Out Islands, including Eleuthera and Harbour Island.
“To a degree, the high-end visitor Baha Mar will attract will be pulled from the [guests on the] Out Islands, [who will make] Baha Mar a stop on their tour,” Lounsberry said. “A new audience will be introduced to this side of the Bahamas.”
Baha Mar’s four independently-managed hotels will include Baha Mar Casino Hotel, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, Rosewood at Baha Mar and SLS at Baha Mar.
The flagship Baha Mar Casino Hotel is the largest of the four properties with 1,000 guestrooms and suites. The hotel’s adjacent casino will offer 1,500 slot machines, 150 gaming tables and five VIP gambling rooms. But it’s not just what’s inside the hotel/casino that will make it a showstopper. Baha Mar executives described an ongoing production around the casino’s outdoor fountains — complete with music, lights and special effects — that will rival the renowned productions around the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.
The Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar will include 707 rooms and a 200,000-square-foot convention center. SLS at Baha Mar will bring the brand’s high-end focus to 300 guestrooms. Rosewood at Baha Mar will feature 200 rooms; it’s the brand’s fourth property in the Caribbean.
Lounsberry is confident that Baha Mar will attract upscale international travelers, including visitors from the west coast of the U.S. He noted that Los Angeles is one of the top 12 markets for the Bahamas.
“The Bahamas is closer to Los Angeles than to Hawaii, by about 10 minutes,” Lounsberry noted. “It would not surprise me if Los Angeles-Bahamas will be become a nonstop air market, once Baha Mar is up and at full steam.”