You can’t blame any travel specialist who didn’t exactly jump for joy and start calling Caribbean-loving clients the second they heard that the estimated $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort project in The Bahamas plans to resume construction in September.
After all, it was around this time last year that Baha Mar announced that its affiliated entities that commenced Chapter 11 cases before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware had filed a Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization with the Bankruptcy Court.
The resort’s future looked pretty bleak back in November when Sarkis Izmirlian, CEO of BMD Holdings, the developer of the Baha Mar resort project, said the appointment of a receiver by the Export Important (EXIM) Bank of China “continues the unfortunate pattern of disastrous actions taken by other stakeholders since Baha Mar has filed for Chapter 11 that have moved Baha Mar further from completion and are now destroying any hope that Baha Mar, as originally conceived for The Bahamas, can become a reality.”
Then came the recent report by Tribune 242 that The Bahamas' Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that the government and the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China have entered into an agreement to have Baha Mar completed and sold to a “world-class hotel and casino operator.” Construction is expected to resume in September, according to the report.
“I think my initial reaction is, ‘I will believe it when I see it,’” says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco, CA. "Overall my interest is down on the project and trust that it will be done is low."
According to the Tribune 242 report, the EXIM Bank has committed to funding the costs to finish the project and the resort’s general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas, will complete the outstanding work. According to the Tribune 242 report, Christie said CCA will also resolve outstanding claims with its suppliers and contractors.
“I can't even keep up with that project,” says Ashley Walker, a luxury travel advisor with TravelSmiths, which is based in Point Pleasant, NJ. “I feel like it's been under construction for the last 10 years. I'll believe it when I see it.”
But there are also agents such as Kristen DeAngelo, owner and travel designer for Dream Excapes in Bristol, CT, who remain positive that the project will finally open.
“I think once Baha Mar is completed and finally opens its doors to future guests, it will be a great addition to the Caribbean, especially to the Bahamian economy,” says DeAngelo. “Jobs will be created, tourist numbers will rise and it will help the overall tourism economy. I feel confident that Baha Mar will complete its $3.5 billion development to create an exciting, new resort for clients to experience The Bahamas.”
Christie has also said thousands of former Baha Mar employees will receive outstanding amounts due to them including unpaid salaries, severance pay, accrued vacation pay and notice of payment due to termination, according to Tribune 242. And that's enough for Aurelio Giordano of Ace Work Travel in Brooklyn, NY, to celebrate.
“It is very important to the future of Bahamas' tourism, greatly increasing their annual income,” says Giordano. “More so, I was happy to hear that those who took it over weren't being totally selfish about it and decided to compensate the thousands of former Baha Mar employees who were owed unpaid wages, severance and other monies due to last years' termination.”