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HomeOpinionOp-EdIsland insights: Bimini

Island insights: Bimini

Despite the getaway appeal that Bimini offers, there are still some challenges that the island faces in terms of infrastructure and preservation of the environment. FILE

Bimini is seven miles of luxury resorts and hotels, native flavor, marina life and eco-filled adventures. It is the perfect place to be if you are looking to escape the long lines of traffic in New Providence or get away from trying to catch the subway on time in New York City. In fact, you really only need a golf cart to get around the island, which is comprised of South and North Bimini. Despite the getaway appeal that Bimini offers, there are still some challenges that the island faces in terms of infrastructure and preservation of the environment. Bimini is home to a variety of sharks and marine habitats. And while this makes it more of an exciting reason to explore the island, there needs to be more room inventory along with an expanded airport to accommodate an increase in visitor traffic. Bimini, being the gateway of The Bahamas, deserves more attention from investors and those in charge to truly tap into its potential for economic prosperity.

Hotels & resorts

Before getting into some of the more popular resorts and hotels, Bimini has a handful of small boutique hotels such as the famous Bimini Big Game Fishing Club, Bimini Blue Water Resort, and Bimini Sands Resort & Marina. These resorts offer a unique experience for visitors who are interested in boating, lavish beach experiences and surreal winding down time. But there is a major player in the hotel market in Bimini known as Resorts World Bimini Resort & Casino, which carries the famous Hilton brand. The resort was originally set out to be ‘the Hamptons’ of The Bahamas, and its first phase launched in 2007, according to a local news column. The magnitude of this project is what concerned most Biminites and environment specialists due to the amount of dredging and destruction its original development plans anticipated. However, most of those plans have been scaled down and/or put aside. The resort is indeed one of Bimini’s largest employers and with a limited workforce in Bimini, persons from Family Islands such as Grand Bahama take up over 100 jobs at the resort. Therefore, there is no doubt about the economic prosperity from a project this size. But at what cost do projects like this come to the residents of The Bahamas?

Some would say that the developer, Gerado Capo, who purchased this property back in 1995 for an estimated $3 million got away with a steal of a deal. After all, the resort does sit on five miles of oceanfront property. The key word here in all of this is location, location, location. Repeat it until it sticks, because it is truly the location of a hotel/resort that can make or break its success. Imagine sticking Resorts World in the middle of Bay Street, inclusive of all amenities. I am sure that would pale in comparison to the idyllic setting of Resorts World Bimini. But Bimini is known for its research and preservation efforts into the biology of marine life, and environmentalists often take heed to projects like this because of the adverse impact it can have. Is it worth it?

Really, a controlled development with little to no impact on the environment is ideal. This can be achieved through proper management and planning, special advisory from both public and private entities, and comprehensive environmental impact assessments (EIA). While we are all for investing in The Bahamas, protecting our natural resources should be priority.

Eco-tourism

Being only 50 miles away from the United States mainland, Bimini is a perfect spot for boaters and those interested in big game fishing. The Bimini Big Game Fishing Club opened in 1936 with the idea of starting fishing tournaments and today has continued that tradition with more added activities. Bimini is widely known as the capital for big game fishing, and Floridians enjoy taking a trip over for this activity. Some fish found in Bimini’s surrounding waters include the blue marlin, dolphin, blackfin tuna and mackerel. Outside of this sportsmanship, Bimini is also known for its beautiful diving experiences. Some of the best sites can be found in South Bimini. When diving, visitors experience an under-water museum expo with wreckage, reefs and sharks. That sounds like nothing but fun, especially for someone interested in exploring the aquatic wonders of the island.

Marinas

Being known as the capital for big game fishing in the world is quite a big deal. Therefore, the importance that marinas play in generating economic activity for Bimini is also a big deal. Bimini tops The Bahamas in the number of marina boaters with 22,732 users in 2016. The consecutive high trend has been seen since 2005 with 16,862 boaters. No other island has been able to match or compete with Bimini’s numbers. Bimini also has a high number of offshore boaters and mixed-use accommodation boaters. Based on these statistics, it is safe to say that boating is definitely a way of life in Bimini.

Challenges

Large-scale hotels like Resorts World certainly provide an economic boost for Bimini, in terms of employment, consumer activity and tourism arrivals, but is this the only way to achieve such prospects? Bimini has a relatively small population and work force, however, this does not mean that residents do not have the ability to expand tourism offerings via vacation rental homes. The island’s beauty and water adventures are enough to attract tourists beyond just a mega-sized hotel. Some visitors may be looking for a villa, a comfy apartment or a reasonable boutique hotel. It’s not as if there isn’t lots to do on the island. While this idea is doable, the South Bimini airport is in dire need of an upgrade. With such improvements, government could see an influx in visitors and an improved airline inventory. If these two ideas were to take off, Bimini’s tourism potential could be further unleashed.

Moving forward

No island in The Bahamas is too big or too small for investment. With Bimini being one of those islands with decent enough utilities and infrastructure, the opportunities to improve the island’s tourism product are there. But one must be careful in the approach to investment, because Bimini’s marine life is a critical part of the island’s uniqueness. Bimini is a paradise for ocean and fishing lovers, and that in itself presents an opportunity for more stay-over visitors. However, going about the expansion of more room inventory must take into consideration the island’s established preservation efforts. With its proximity to the United States, Bimini could be well on its way to becoming a tourist centric hotspot for sea lovers who would be willing to pay the price for an unimaginable getaway.

 

  • Roderick A. Simms II is a director of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and chairperson of the Family Islands division. He can be emailed at RASII@ME.com.

 

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