Former Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday that the lease of land on Paradise Island to Royal Caribbean International (RCI) would be a “fundamental error” by the government.
“By allowing one cruise line to create a dominant position in the harbor of New Providence would be a fundamental error that will go against the income that Bay Street should earn,” he said.
Christie added, “[Atlantis] created a major investment with its water offerings. The cruise ships patronize Atlantis and its water offerings. Baha Mar, they are building a water experience and would expect cruise ships to patronize it. Bay Street has been going through a generational challenge of being relevant to cruise ships.
“The eastern section of Bay Street is dead.”
He continued, “New Providence is supposed to be a destination to maximize the impact of cruise ships for as many Bahamians as possible and to go in the direction of giving one exclusive to a cruise ship [company] is not the right way.”
RCI President Michael Bayley said his company is planning a $50 million attraction called the Royal Beach Club, which is slated to open in late 2022.
A critical component of the attraction would be beachfront property at Colonial Beach, of which the government owns about 17 acres.
RCI is said to be eyeing leasing 10 acres of the land.
The Nassau Guardian understands the government is moving forward with the lease.
It is expected to be finalized by the Office of the Prime Minister in the coming weeks.
Christie said cruise lines have opportunities on other islands for these kinds of developments, but they should not happen on New Providence.
“New Providence was not meant to have one cruise line in such a dominant position,” he said.
“It is a reason we allowed them to go to other islands with a view to their having a more meaningful impact on other islands.”
Christie added, “You have people on Bay Street who expect cruise line passengers, people at The Pointe, people at Paradise Island, at Baha Mar, and at Arawak Cay.
“[O]ur challenge as we move forward in The Bahamas is, where are we going to find job opportunities for Bahamians when unemployment is mounting into the many thousands?
“Where are we going to give these young people the hope that they are going to be able to meaningfully participate in the economy of this country?”
Government officials have cited the need for ensuring Nassau remains an attractive destination for cruise ships given the expansion of private island destinations as one of the reasons for moving forward.
There is also the concern by tourism officials that more attractions are needed to entice customers off the cruise ships.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) promised to cancel the lease agreement with RCI.
PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis said the deal would “set back Bahamian industries and block Bahamians from the enjoyment of asset use and value in what little is available for ordinary Bahamians”.