A Chinese conglomerate with investments in the British Virgin Islands has announced it is buying the beleaguered Baha Mar Resort in the Bahamas.
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited — or CTFE — announced Monday it has signed an agreement to purchase and operate the sprawling Nassau resort that features four hotels, a casino, and a Jack Nicklaus golf course.
The resort, begun in 2011, has been standing empty after $3.5 billion in construction costs and legal battles between the developer and its major financier, the Export-Import Bank of China.
“CTFE will dedicate significant, ongoing investment and resources towards the pre-opening and opening of Baha Mar Resort,” said Graeme Davis, president of the company’s Bahamas subsidiary. “We will also ensure that the Bahamian people and the region benefit fully from the project, which will create tremendous job and economic stimulus opportunities,” he said in a statement issued by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises.
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises’ subsidiary Rosewood Hotel Group operates Jumby Bay in Antigua, Rosewood Tucker’s Point in Bermuda and Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda, which is closed for renovations.
Global Construction Review of London reported earlier this month that Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie said Chow Tai Fook Enterprises is “arranging for operation by the Grand Hyatt of the casino and convention hotels.”
Global Construction Review reported that SLS Hotels and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises’ Rosewood Hotel Group will operate the other properties, “beginning with a phased opening in the second quarter of 2017.”
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises itself said the company is “in discussions with several globally recognized hospitality brands to be luxury hotel operators at Baha Mar.” Its announcement mentioned the same companies Christie cited.
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises said it plans to open the resort in phases, beginning with the casino and its hotel, the convention center and the golf course, in April.
“The company estimates that more than 1,500 jobs will be generated for Bahamians within this first phase,” Chow Tai Fook Enterprises said in a statement. “Once fully operational, Baha Mar Resort will employ thousands more.”
In a statement released by the company, Christie praised Chow Tai Fook Enterprises’s move to own Baha Mar.
“The government is confident that CTFE has the precise capabilities and track record to successfully complete and operate Baha Mar Resort, from both a lodging and casino perspective,” the statement said.
He said the move will “open new markets and opportunities for the Bahamas that will deliver great benefits to the island and our people.”
Chris Fair, president and chief executive officer of Resonance Consultancy, which specializes in destination branding, marketing and tourism development, said the news about the Baha Mar should be seen as beneficial for not only the Bahamas but all of the Caribbean.
“Everyone in the Bahamas is excited to see the project moving forward and advance, but the Baha Mar development is a positive for not just the Bahamians but for the Caribbean in general.”
Such a destination can “attract international groups that may not have visited the Caribbean in the past.”
If visitors come to the region once, there’s a good chance they will consider returning to other nearby destinations, according to Fair.
“They’re more likely to be enticed, and visit other parts of the Caribbean,” he said.
Short term, Fair said, “a lot of current hotels will see this as a threat, in terms of cannibalization of the existing market.” However, in the long term it can “help lift boats throughout the region,” he said.
“Tourism can be a precursor for other forms of capital investment,” Fair said, “and capital investment can help drive tourism.”
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. is owned and controlled by the Cheng family, with a global portfolio of commercial real estate, retail, transportation, hotels, jewelry and department stores and infrastructure investment.
The company, its subsidiaries, and the Cheng family list extensive BVI financial stakes, including Cheng Yu Tung Family (holdings) Ltd.; Cheng Yu Tung Family (Holdings II) Ltd.; Chow Tai Fook Capital Ltd.; and Chow Tai Fook Holding Ltd.; and Highrise Achiever Ltd.