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Commentary | Remembering Sol Kerzner

Solomon (Sol) Kerzner passed away on Saturday in South Africa; he was 84 years old and had been ailing for many months now.

Sol Kerzner was a highly accomplished hotelier with tourism interests around the globe.

For The Bahamas, he will long be remembered as the legendary hotelier who entered the tourism sector in 1994 when Bahamian tourism was at or close to its nadir.

He reshaped our tourism industry by

transforming his hotel properties on Paradise Island into a world-class destination and leading warm-weather playground for the rich and famous.

He converted the dog-eared Britannia Beach and Loews Paradise Island hotels into the Coral and Beach Towers and constructed the new concrete and glass Royal Towers wrapping them in a water themed park including a luxury yacht marina, swimming pools, meandering streams and a mega aquarium.

He recreated the fabled Lost City of Atlantis at “The Dig” and fashioned a new casino displaying modern, blown-glass sculptures, multiple eateries and live entertainment.

He created Marina Village lined with fine dining as well as casual eating establishments, retail shops and artists’ galleries.

And he returned the Ocean Club to the glamour of its glory days of the 1960s, upgrading its golf course.

Demand for his new tourism product increased major airlines to Nassau’s international airport, making redundant the small Paradise Island airport that had earlier been required to facilitate the direct arrival of tourists to the island’s resorts. Kerzner converted the valuable real estate at the eastern end of the island into a new premier upscale gated-residential community.

Later, he would develop an adult retreat at the elegant Cove hotel and a family-friendly high-end residence hotel at the Reef.

The spectacular opening of the Royal Towers at the turn of the century was headlined by musical legends like Michael Jackson and Grace Jones, and attended by a Who’s Who list of Hollywood’s A-List actors.

Importantly for The Bahamas, Kerzner’s entry into the Bahamian hotel and tourism sector spurred new investments in the sector by both existing and new investors invigorated by his success.

His investment stimulated and encouraged the upgrade of the infrastructure of our capital city beginning with the construction of the second Paradise Island bridge to coincide with the opening of the Royal Towers, and now named to the honor of Academy Award-winning Bahamian actor, Sir Sidney Poitier.

His development quickly became the largest private sector employer in The Bahamas, and through its contracts and partnerships in the community, was responsible for creating additional thousands of indirect jobs in the economy.

With the assistance of a buoyant tourism sector, Bahamian unemployment numbers were cut in half and fell from a high point of close to 15 percent at the beginning of the 1990s to the single digit — less than seven percent by 2001.

His hotel properties have been credited with attracting increased numbers of wealthy visitors to the country, and by extension, supporting increased hotel room rates, particularly on Paradise Island.

The knock-on effect of these developments was to the benefit of Bahamian business, Bahamian employment and government revenue, which increased as a direct result of increased hotel and tourism-related taxes, customs duties and increased spending in the economy.

The refurbishment, upgrade and new construction undertaken by Kerzner on Paradise Island was directly responsible for possibly the most important transfer of skills to the Bahamian workforce and remains, we believe, a standard to be emulated by all major developments in the country, requiring the importation of highly skilled and experienced professionals and tradesmen.

Sol Kerzner and his late son, Howard “Butch” Kerzner, will also always be remembered for their generous philanthropy contributing to the enhancement of several community and beach parks, most notably at Montagu Beach for the enjoyment of Bahamians and for the development of swim facilities at a church-operated school, St. Anne’s, in Fox Hill.

For his many contributions to The Bahamas, Sol Kerzner was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen at the behest of the Bahamian government in 2010.

The Bahamas owes Sir Solomon Kerzner a great debt of gratitude.

We salute him.

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