New RCI deal does not address critical concerns raised by PLP

Dear Editor,

Kindly permit me the opportunity to publicly express my views on the recent decision by the government to give approval to Royal Caribbean International (RCI) to develop its private vacation enclave on Paradise Island.

The government, in announcing approval of this venture, stated the fact or the possibility that Bahamians will have a 49 percent equity participation in this venture and that the government has reduced the Crown land giveaway from the seven acres to four acres.

As leader of the opposition in 2020, it was reported that the current prime minister spoke loudly about the negative impact this development will have on downtown businesses and Bahamian entrepreneurs competing for the same cruise passenger dollar.

It was also reported that he lamented the fact that this project if brought to fruition will add to an already congested Nassau harbor and will limit beach access to residents and visitors alike.

If such was the case then, does the fact that government will hold a 49 percent equity stake or will only lease four acres remove the negative impact or threat this venture by RCI poses to downtown businesses and vendors?

Will it lessen the damage likely be done to the marine environment which the prime minister reportedly spoke about as opposition leader in 2020?

The same economic threats and unattractiveness connected to this venture that existed in 2020 will still exist regardless of the ownership makeup of this venture or the amount of Crown land gifted.

Further, if it is the government’s intention to revitalize Bay Street by seeking to have owners make the financial investment to upgrade their property, approving this project certainly does not advance this objective given that this project is likely to weaken the economic vitality and attractiveness of Bay Street and by extension the attendant properties along Bay Street. And it certainly will not add to the passenger spend with Bay Street merchants and vendors.

Also, why would the government allow a cruise line to monopolize the cruise visitor experience and spend while on land in The Bahamas? The cruise operator already has unfettered access to passengers wallet and experience while en route to The Bahamas.

Notwithstanding the narrative by the government, its decision to approve this project seems to be counterproductive to its objective of revitalizing downtown economically and its aim of increasing the cruise visitor spend in a manner that benefits local merchants and vendors.

If RCI has $110 million to invest in the creation of attractions for its cruise passengers, there are opportunities available in New Providence proper which could be undertaken in partnership with local investors or those persons or entities in the cultural and arts arena.

For many of these persons and entities, money and access to available land is the only thing that is lacking.

This venture should not be viewed as providing a much needed tourist attraction for cruise visitors but should be viewed more so as facilitating the extraction of economic opportunities away from Bay Street and the wider New Providence community.

– Claude B. Hanna

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