Travel Agent recently invited Caribbean tourism delegates to a roundtable discussion in New York to get firsthand status updates from both the islands that were devastated by last year’s hurricane season and the ones that escaped major damage.
Included in the discussion were Kim Jack Riley, Antigua and Barbuda’s director of tourism for the USA; Cardigan Connor, parliamentary secretary for Anguilla's tourism sector; Petra Roach, U.S. director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.; Celia Ross-Latham, director of sales for the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Office; Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority; Perla George, business development director for North America at the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board; Mikala Moss, area manager for New York for the Bahamas Tourist Office; Christine Noel-Horsford, director of sales and marketing for the Grenada Tourism Authority; and Sylma Brown, director for the U.S. for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Ruthanne Terrero and Joe Pike of Travel Agent magazine and Travel Agent Central moderated the conversation.
In this piece, we focus on the latest luxury travel updates in the Bahamas provided to us by Mikala Moss, area manager for New York for the Bahamas Tourist Office. Be sure to keep following Travel Agent in the coming weeks as we will break down the status updates from some of the other destinations involved in the discussion.
Bahamas’ Luxury Boom
The Bahamas, which was one of the lucky Caribbean islands to avoid the impact of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria this past September, is currently in the middle of a luxury resort boom spearheaded my the much-anticipated opening of the Baha Mar resort.
The $4.2 billion beachfront development has a total of 2,300 rooms and suites, in addition to an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature designed golf course.
The resort also includes one of the largest casinos and the first flagship ESPA spa in the Caribbean. Baha Mar will encompass three brands: Grand Hyatt Hotels, which is open now; SLS Hotels, which opened in November; and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, which is expected to open in June.
“The old elephant in the room is now open. Grand Hyatt opened in spring of last year,” says Moss. “The next thing still under development, ready to open soon, hopefully before the end of this year, is The Pointe, which is in downtown Nassau beside [British Colonial Hilton Nassau] and that is 150 rooms. Also, Margaritaville Beach Resort (slated to officially open in 2019) is putting together a water park, a spa, entertainment center, bowling alley, movie complex. It’s almost a whole other Atlantis.”
Speaking of Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas, the resort is undergoing major renovations with more dining options and a complete overhaul of its family-friendly The Coral, which includes a new lobby, swim-up snack bar for kids, fresh pool and cabanas, as well as a complete rebranding of The Cove — the resort complex’s high-end, luxury hotel. Throughout the resort, new eateries are being added, many of which are owned and operated by local Bahamians.
In other hotel news, one of the Caribbean’s most popular beach resorts, One&Only Ocean Club, is now managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The management shifted in late November. The newly named The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas’ traditional Caribbean-style buildings are surrounded by 35 acres of gardens, with dining, spa, sports and recreation facilities.
The Island’s Biggest Challenges
Moss told Travel Agent the destination’s biggest challenge has always been, and continues to be, informing the consumer that the Bahamas has way more to offer than just Nassau.
“For the Bahamas, I guess, again, perception is the most pressing issue, the reminder that we are so much more than just Nassau,” she says. “The fact is that they all think Nassau’s such a big island when it’s really very small, so that is the biggest item on our agenda, constant education, constant reminder because we know that in the market, what they see on TV tends to stick, and they do see a lot of Nassau on TV and not the others."
Moss also told Travel Agent that more flights to those other islands are needed.
“[We need] air lift into those other islands as well, making sure that it’s more accessible so that people don’t have to overnight,” says Moss. “While we do have a lot of air lift on the Eastern Seaboard - New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, throughout Florida, and all of that direct, we still need to have those seamless connections be a little bit more seamless because while some of the gateways like in Atlanta or Fort Lauderdale and Miami will go into some of the smaller islands, coming out of, say, New York, you can only get into Nassau.”