International Business

Opening of Bahamas mega-resort delayed again

The Baha Mar resort advertises itself as “the new Riviera.” It sits on Nassau’s Cable Beach.
The Baha Mar resort advertises itself as “the new Riviera.” It sits on Nassau’s Cable Beach. Baha Mar

On Friday the first wave of visitors to Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion resort in the Bahamas built largely with Chinese financing and labor, expected to be sipping piña coladas on Cable Beach and splashing in turquoise pools.

But Baha Mar, which had planned to have three of the hotels in its Nassau complex open to receive weekend guests, said abruptly earlier this week that the 1,000-acre resort, which includes a casino and 18-hole golf course, still isn’t ready for prime time. It placed the blame on its Chinese partners.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Baha Mar said that it had relied on the “representations” of the Chinese lead contractor, China State Construction Engineering Corp., that the work would be completed in time for guests to begin checking in Friday, but “subsequently, it has become clear that our contractor has not completed the work with an attention to detail consistent with Baha Mar standards of excellence.”

As recently as a week ago, the resort was still saying it would begin a soft opening on Friday, culminating in a grand opening in May.

On Wednesday, Baha Mar announced on its Facebook page that the resort’s opening had been postponed, provoking a litany of complaints from travelers who had booked flights and dog sitters, planned trips around school holidays and were wondering whether they could even salvage their planned Bahamian vacations on such short notice.

“Thank you, Baha Mar, for nothing but a letdown,” posted Leana Velissarios. “Instead of ads on TV and NYC cabs, you should’ve spent $$$ getting the place ready.”

The resort has spent tens of millions of dollars marketing itself in key U.S. cities, such as Miami, as well as in mainland China and areas around the world with concentrations of high net-worth Chinese.

“Totally unacceptable how you kept this info from everyone and only us who happened to ‘like you’ on Facebook happen to stumble upon it,” grossed Lisa Katz Grossman, of Menlo Park, California.

In its Facebook posting, Baha Mar said its team was in the process of reaching out to guests with reservations as soon as possible and asked them to send their contact information. Amid the copious complaints, there were a few people who said they were happy with the resort’s attempts to make amends.

Three new hotels — The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, an SLS Lux and a Rosewood — were scheduled to open Friday, and the Grand Hyatt was to begin receiving guests May 1.

Asked when the hotels would open, a spokeswoman responded: “We will work with our brand partners to determine the soft opening time frame for each property, and expect all of the hotels to be accepting guests at our May grand opening.”

But the resort’s Facebook post also said, “We will not open our doors until we are positive that we can deliver the best experience our guests deserve.”

It’s the second time Baha Mar has missed a targeted opening. It was originally scheduled to open in mid-December to take advantage of the all-important winter season. Asked about that delay, Robert Sands, a senior vice president, said then that the opening was postponed so Baha Mar would be able to “provide a full luxurious experience.”

Built with the help of 4,100 Chinese laborers, the project to revitalize Cable Beach had languished for years before the Export-Import Bank of China financed $2.4 billion of the project and China State put in another $150 million for an equity stake.

China Construction America, a subsidiary of China State Construction, took issue with Baha Mar’s characterization of the delay. “The statements by the developer of the Baha Mar project laying blame upon CCA [Bahamas] for its decision to delay the announced opening of this project are wholly inappropriate and inconsistent with the history of this project,” the company said in a statement published in the Nassau Guardian.

CCA said it had responded to the challenges of the project “professionally and effectively” and remained committed “to constructing a resort that will bring pride to the Bahamian people.”