Large-scale investments by Bahamians in the tourism product are extremely rare.
The recent heads of agreement signing with Eleuthera Properties Ltd. for Jack’s Bay development on Eleuthera was a much welcomed development because it came at a time when there are very few positive signals on the economic horizon.
“Based on feedback that we have gotten, the fact of the matter is, I’m not saying Jack’s Bay is the answer for everything, but it’s a material part of the answer,” Eleuthera Properties Ltd. Chairman Sir Franklyn Wilson told National Review yesterday.
Vice Chairman Tommy Turnquest said since the signing on Friday, interest in the project has been tremendous.
“Even on the weekend, I’ve gotten a number of calls from individuals who I’ve sent the prospectus and these are all Bahamians, obviously doing well, and so we’re excited really,” he said. “The interest has been great.”
On Friday, Turnquest said Jack’s Bay will allow Bahamians to invest in the $400 million, ultra-exclusive members-only resort, golf course, residential community and marina project through the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX).
Like Sir Franklyn, he noted yesterday that the signing came at an important time.
“Despite being in the throes of this pandemic and lots of stress all around by lots of people, to have something like this take place [is significant], and then there were all sorts of different optics that made Bahamians feel good about ourselves,” Turnquest told National Review.
Pointing to the optics, Sir Franklyn noted that when one thinks of a Tommy Turnquest and a Franklyn Wilson, one thinks of two men on opposite sides of the political divide, not as business partners who have undertaken an important, high-end touristic development.
“To see a former leader of the Free National Movement and a former treasurer of the Progressive Liberal Party working this closely, this isn’t normal so all of these things are conspiring to create something bigger than we dreamt,” he said.
One thing is not lost on us — their partnership demonstrates that money and business transcend politics.
Their achievement is not insignificant and Jack’s Bay promises to be at the standard of an Albany and Lyford Cay.
Its principals insist the Eleuthera project will be transformative.
The business model for the project encompasses a private members club and residential communities. The development will include 500 residences, club suites and spacious estate lots.
Turnquest said, “…We’re priding ourselves on the exclusivity and the privacy and the amenities that we have.”
According to Wilson, more than $100 million has been invested in the project already. Phase one, which is substantially completed, features a 10-hole Tiger Woods golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, beach club, tennis courts and 18 club villas, among other amenities.
At the press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nassau where the heads of agreement was signed on Friday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the country has to be ready to take advantage of when travel and tourism begin to return.
“This project along with others will help our national economic recovery, post the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minnis said.
Wilson reiterated yesterday that many people will benefit from Jack’s Bay.
“It’s truly a case where many people can contribute and many people can benefit,” he said.
Speaking on Monday about the multi-phase plan to reboot tourism, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said Bahamas tourism lacks diversity and has been starved of significant increases in new, locally-owned businesses and market innovation for many years.
“That is why the recent announcement of the development of Jack’s Bay in Eleuthera by Bahamian entrepreneurs is so in line with the untapped opportunities for The Bahamas,” D’Aguilar said.
The minister also spoke about the need for more diversification of the Bahamian tourism product.
Sir Franklyn believes Jack’s Bay represents just that.
“The country wants to know when Baha Mar is opening and when Atlantis is opening and the best the minister of tourism could say is, ‘I asked and they ain’t tell me,’” he said.
“I don’t say that in a negative or degrading way, but it speaks again to the importance of what Jack’s Bay is. I cannot imagine Jack’s Bay in its heyday, x years from now, and a minister of tourism calling the chairman of Jack’s Bay to ask a question like that and receiving that answer. I suspect that would never be the case.”
In this environment where there is so much global uncertainty and many investors are holding onto their cash, it is a positive sign that Eleuthera Properties Ltd. is continuing its project.
It is a spark in a largely subdued economy and its signing comes as there is anticipation over what the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) will recommend and what the prime minister will outline when he finally gets around to delivering his promised national address on the economy.
We hope that the ERC lays out and the government adopts a broad vision for more meaningful Bahamian participation in the national economy.
We also hope that there are accompanying incentives that encourage local investors to play a more serious role in development.
The government has a lot of land. It must reform its land policies and make them innovative, so they are structured to create wealth among Bahamians.
We will never be in a position where we no longer need foreign direct investment, but it is quite apparent that as a country we also need to look inwardly to jumpstart our economy and pursue more creative avenues for growth.
Jack’s Bay should not be the exception. It should be one element of the substantial contributions Bahamian investors are making to economic development.
Perhaps it will serve as inspiration for future Bahamian investments.