The government has facilitated more than $1 billion in cruise tourism investment in The Bahamas over the past two years, according to date compiled by Guardian Business.
Since 2017, the Minnis administration saw the opening of Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) $250 million Coco Cay private island and has given the green light to the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) project at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, valued at up to $400 million; RCI’s newest project with the ITM Group for the redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahama, valued at $300 million; and Carnival Corporation’s development of its $100 million cruise port on Grand Bahama.
The government has also signed off on a heads of agreement (HOA) last year with Carnival for $80 million worth of improvements to its private island on Half Moon Cay.
There is also the $200 million transformation of Ocean Cay, just off Bimini, by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) that was recently completed; and the development of Virgin Voyages’ beach club in Bimini, slated to be completed later this year.
The value of these projects is approximately $1.3 billion and does not include the $250 million redevelopment of the Port of Nassau by Global Port Holdings.
These are all a part of the government’s focus on expanding the cruise industry, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said.
“You would notice that the policy of this FNM (Free National Movement) government is to sign deals with cruise companies in population centers. What did we sign since we came to office? Disney is in Eleuthera, Carnival is in Grand Bahama, Virgin is in Bimini, now RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) is here [on Grand Bahama],” he said.
“And all of them are in population centers. They are not on private islands where the economic impact is minimal at best. So, we have made a policy of striking deals with cruise companies in population centers so that the economic impact is more significant. It’s a much smarter policy. Our predecessors would only do private islands. Our prime minister said off the top that he’s not into that.”
Another potential cruise business project in the pipeline is Royal Caribbean’s plans for the western tip of Paradise Island, which it recently purchased for $50 million.
“You would have heard of a project on Paradise Island that Royal Caribbean is looking at too, once again in a population center, to try and impact as many Bahamians as possible. And while there may be naysayers that say ‘oh why aren’t Bahamians doing that’, they had to buy the land for $50 million-plus, they have to build an attraction, probably another $50 million-plus, so that’s $100 million,” D’Aguilar said.
“And I tell everybody we need projects of scale in Nassau to accommodate these 10,400 passengers a day. And right now, the only other project of scale is Atlantis and that is not owned by Bahamians. So that is what we are attempting to do.”