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September 23, 2014

Baha Mar Prepares to Boost Bahamas Incentive Appeal

This coming spring, the Baha Mar resort is set to open in the Bahamas, combining four luxury hotels (and a casino and convention space) into one space. At CMITE last week, buyers and suppliers attended a reception at the resort's golf course, across the street from the under-construction buildings, and learned about what the hotel would offer the incentives market. 

When it opens next year, Baha Mar will cover 400 hectares along the coastline with four hotel brands: Rosewood, SLS Lux, Grand Hyatt and The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. "This is the first time anyone is bringing these brands together, David Sukala, Director of Incentive & Group Business at Baha Mar, explained, "but they're totally separate in terms of feel."

The Four Hotels

The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel will serve as the centerpiece of the resort, with a large-scale gaming facility and 1,000 rooms. For unwinding, the resort will have an ESPA with 30,000 square feet of treatment facilities. Top incentive guests guests will want to book the Villa Roxie, which will have interior designs by Kravitz Design, the creative firm of musician Lenny Kravitz.

Flying over the Baha Mar construction site

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will operate and manage Rosewood at Baha Mar, a 200-room luxury hotel with 87 private residences and villas that can be used for smaller gatherings. (Good to know: Rosewood at Baha Mar will also include the smaller Sense Spa for its guests). SLS LUX, meanwhile, will have 300 designer rooms and 107 private residences, while Hyatt Hotels and Resorts will operate and manage the 700-room convention hotel, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar. 

Combining Space

The resort's combined convention facilities (managed by Grand Hyatt) will cover 200,000 square feet in total, reportedly the largest in The Bahamas and able to accommodate 2,500 people. The center includes 2,000-seat performing arts center that can double as a sports venue, but much of the 200,000 square feet will be for outdoor functions rather than indoor. (Part of the convention center will double as an art gallery.) "We have the amount [of event space] we have because it fits well," Sukala said. 

The SLS and Rosewood hotels will also have their own smaller event spaces--much of which will be outdoors, Sukala noted. "There are lots of expectations on how that will play out, as well as all the shared services." While guests at any of the hotels will be able to use many of the facilities--including the convention center and spa--some elements will be exclusive to certain properties. (The Rosewood, for example, will have its own spa, and some hotels will have pools for their own guests.) 

Rosewood at Baha Mar

Yvette Edwards, Director of Sales and Marketing at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, said that the resort would go for global travelers, not just the U.S. incentive market. "We don't want to be everything to everybody," Sukala added. "We want to be everything to a few. We're going after the affluent traveler." To that end, while no restaurants have been announced by name, Sukala and Edwards said that the head chefs would remain on property to oversee operations, and that no chain eateries were under consideration. "Big doesn't have to mean impersonal," Edwards said.

Baha Mar and the Bahamas 

"Baha Mar is a tremendous addition," George Brice, vice president of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board said. "Tourism is our number one industry, and this can only enhance our economic growth and secure us as the number one Caribbean destination for incentive travel." 

At CMITE, buyers and suppliers mingle beside a model of Baha Mar

To appeal to MICE groups, Brice continued, the islands must improve their service and infrastructure, providing value-for-money to groups. One of the main challenges for this goal will be getting more affordable airseats to the Bahamas. With increased supply, Brice believes there will be enough visitors—both for leisure and business—to fill all of the resorts in the islands. Currently, he noted, there are no direct flights to the Bahamas from the western U.S. or even the Midwest, limiting the islands' appeal for those markets. 

RELATED: How Atlantis is Attracting New Group Business

The Bahamas are already anticipating this growth, however, and have added terminals to Lynden Pindling International Airport for departing U.S.-bound flights and for inbound and outbound domestic flights. A new 112,000-square-foot domestic/international departures and domestic arrivals terminal is also set to open in 2015. 

All of these investments will pay off for all of the islands, Brice added, and he believes that a rising tide will float all boats. "The government is investing and the private sector is investing," he said. "We're also training people to provide better service to international guests."

Once the airport expansions have been completed and Baha Mar is open, Brice expects to see more incentive groups looking to the Bahamas. Even smaller resorts and hotels can benefit from the competition, he noted, as planners may find good values during peak seasons. "Ninety percent of business travel currently goes to Atlantis," Brice noted. "With Baha Mar opening, that will change." 

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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