Kerzner changes tone on Baha Mar
In a change of tone about the grievances he expressed just over a year ago, Kerzner International chief executive officer and Atlantis founder Sir Sol Kerzner yesterday said it is time to “move on” from concerns that the deal between the government and Baha Mar violates previous agreements between the government and Kerzner International.
Last November, Kerzner charged that terms given to Baha Mar violated Kerzner Bahamas’ most favored nation status with the government.
“You know what — we’ve got to move on,” replied
Kerzner when asked if he still believed the Baha Mar deal was “a clear breach of an investment agreement” with his company.
As he stood in the lobby of the massive Royal Towers that have come to represent Atlantis throughout the globe, Kerzner said his company is looking at how to retain its market share, and grow as the $2.6 billion Cable Beach redevelopment project prepares to come on stream.
“I think that the way forward is really for us to keep developing The Bahamas as a great destination and to keep marketing hard in terms of Atlantis as the brand and a destination,” he said. “We’ve got three, four years to work at it and I think we’re going to work very positively.
“And I think that we work close with the promotion boards and with the Ministry of Tourism. And I think that we’ve got to take a positive view and work very hard. We need to expand the market dramatically over the next three to four years.”
Kerzner had specifically objected to the proposal to grant Baha Mar 8,150 work permits for Chinese workers to come build the mega resort. That proposal has since been approved by government.
Kerzner said that agreement was more favorable than any his company has signed with the government.
President and Managing Director of Kerzner Bahamas George Markantonis said that Atlantis does not view itself as being in competition with Baha Mar, which recently opened the new West Bay Street and is preparing its next phase of construction with a view to opening in 2014.
“Both ourselves and Baha Mar, we have to focus on getting more airlift here, getting more ways for people to get here so that we can fill both of these mega resorts,” said Markantonis.
“It’s really not about Atlantis versus Baha Mar as much as there’s a limited availability of seats to get to The Bahamas. And we’re focusing our energies on working with the Ministry of Tourism (and) working with the promotion boards to get that done.
“And by the way, working with Baha Mar as well because we sit on the same promotion boards.”
Kerzner said Atlantis, like other large companies, has struggled through the global economic downturn.
He indicated that he’s cautiously optimistic about the future.
“Not just (at) Atlantis, but throughout the world really, the last few years have been very challenging,” he said.
“And I do think that things are still not perfect, but I think things are looking better and we are encouraged and working very hard. And I think through George and his team, they do one tremendous job here.
“And I do believe that hopefully we get out of the woods in terms of the (United States) economy and there’s no question that we are then very, very well placed to do good.”
Kerzner said one of the things that bodes well for the future of the Paradise Island properties is the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament that begins on Thursday (see SPORTS section).
The tournament will be held at Atlantis every year through 2016. It has all Atlantis hotels fully occupied this weekend.