NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government’s consideration of Royal Caribbean’s bid to develop a beach destination on Paradise Island is a fundamental error, according to former Prime minister Perry Christie.
Royal Caribbean has applied to lease around ten acres of on Paradise Island’s western end, which it will combine with its other property acquisitions to create a destination that will cater to its Nassau cruise passengers.
The move comes as the government signed a Heads of Agreement (HOA) with the cruise line and ITM theGroup for the sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort and Casino.
When asked about the possible development on the sidelines of a speaking engagement, Christie told reporters, “By allowing one cruise line to create a dominant position in the harbor of New Providence, would be a fundamental error, that would go against the income that Bay Street should earn.”
He noted that several cruise lines have already been given an “extraordinary privilege” to make a major investment in creating another destination other than New providence in The Bahamas.
Christie pointed to the investments put into Atlantis, Bahama Mar, The Pointe and even Bay Street, insisting that these offerings rely on patronization by the cruise ships.
“New providence was not meant to have one cruise line in such a dominant position,” he continued.
“It is the reason why we have allowed them to go to other islands with a view to their having a meaningful impact.
“…The government has to think very, very clearly and carefully about what is being contemplated, what’s being organized.”
Toby Smith, a Bahamian entrepreneur and principal of Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Company, has also been locked in talks with the government for nearly eight years, waiting for his project on that same property to be greenlighted.
Smith told the Tribune recently that he is being “pushed into a corner” by the Minnis administration over the development, and is now being forced to accept “inferior” land to make way for Royal Caribbean’s planned destination.
Attorney General Carl Bethel has accused the businessman of being “extremely selfish” for refusing to budget on the new proposal, even though it would strike a fair balance between the two projects and is ultimately in the bets interest of the country.
Asked about his administration’s role in those talks over the project, Christie said yesterday that Smith has been “very committed to the idea that he should create an experience over there.”
“We’ve always had the concern about whether or not the resources were available for his proposition, but he had the commitment, he had the will, he said he had access to the capital, but it never happened in our time, even though we were having discussions with him on that,” he said.
Christie insisted that the future of tourism in The Bahamas must be heavily influenced by future governments determining the extent to which Bahamians can more meaningfully participate in the revenue earned from tourism.
“I think a major effort has to be made in thinking and redefining how we approach tourism and we have to do it in a way where there’s no conflict between cruise ships because we have decided to give favor to one or the other,” he added.
“New Providence is supposed to be a destination to maximize the influence of cruise ships for as many Bahamians as possible.
“And to go in the direction of giving one exclusive to a cruise ship is not the right way.”