DPM: Ongoing dialogue with Royal Caribbean on beach club
While the government would not confirm whether the Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) has presented a new proposal for the development of its Royal Beach Club project on Paradise Island, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper has confirmed that discussions continue.
The $110 million project proposed for the western portion of the island involved the leasing of Crown land, a portion of which remains under litigation.
Guardian Business understands the new proposal submitted to the government from RCG reimagines the project on a smaller portion of Crown land, that does not include the portion of the property which is embroiled in a court battle between the government and Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Co. Ltd. (PILBC), which first proposed plans to transform the land containing an historic lighthouse into a beach club.
“Government is in ongoing dialogue with RCCL in relation to its proposed development on PI. This does not include any discussion in relation to land that is in dispute,” Cooper said when asked to confirm if a new proposal was before Cabinet.
“The matter with Toby Smith remains before the court and we are not at liberty to speak to it.”
Last week, Office of the Prime Minister Press Secretary Clint Watson informed the media that the government recently held a meeting with Smith, the principal of PILBC.
“If it is that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is negotiating land that does not include my Crown land lease parcels, that would be a major win for The Bahamas and a major win for Bahamians where we are not giving up more Bahamian Crown land for the financial benefit of a foreigner,” Smith told Guardian Business yesterday when contacted for comment.
“While Royal Caribbean touts The Bahamas as being its number one destination and supports the likes of Bahamas Feeding Network and takes its employees on cruises, the financial imbalance continues to be hugely tipped on the side of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. And those revenues are being exported out of The Bahamas without Bahamians even getting to see them. It’s my position as a proud Bahamian to even the balance, where Bahamians receive a greater piece of the pie.
“The cruise lines are asking for Bahamian experiences and excursions, and Paradise Lighthouse and Beach Club is doing exactly that. The Nassau Cruise Port is encouraging Bahamians to offer a Bahamian experience and our culture, and Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club is also doing that.”
There had been concerns within the cruise industry that Royal Caribbean’s silence on its multimillion-dollar project, which originally had a start day of October 2022 and completion date of May 2023, had been canceled.
However, Royal Caribbean Cruise Blog reported last week that in December 2022, Royal Caribbean International President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley confirmed that multiple projects, including its beach club on Paradise Island, are still in the works.
“We have multiple other port type projects that are still operating. They’re still in place. Our ambition is to continue with our strategy, but obviously we have to be mindful of all of the various issues that came from the pandemic,” Bayley reportedly said.
“My ambition is to as quickly as possible… to get the capital to continue to create these products for the business.”
The Beach Club, according to RCG, touts an array of activities available to guests, including, but not limited to snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, jet-skiing, floating mat rental, inflatable water slides, parasailing, nature hikes, volleyball and other beach- and water-related activities.
RCG has estimated that its project would have a $1 billion economic impact on the country’s economy over 10 years through guest spend, government taxes and other expenditures.
The company has pledged to hire 250 Bahamians for the project’s construction and operations phases.