The government must meet with Paradise Island developer Toby Smith before a decision is made on Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) Royal Beach Club project, government’s Press Secretary Clint Watson told Guardian Business yesterday, adding though that he is not sure on the time line for that meeting.
RCI has, though, been meeting with top government officials and tourism officials, with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley telling the media on Wednesday that the project is “very close to being able to start” and they are close to concluding all of the issues surrounding the project.
“We’re very close to finalizing all of the various discussions, etc.,” Bayley said.
Meantime, Smith confirmed to this paper that he has not yet had any meetings with the new government.
There has been opposition from Smith about RCI’s project, as he contends that the Crown land granted to RCI for its project encroaches on the Crown land granted to him for his project.
Environmentalists have also spoken out against RCI’s proposed development on Paradise Island, where the company has purchased several private plots of land and obtained a government Crown land lease for more acreage.
The cruise line is interested in developing the beach club on Paradise Island, given that it plans to greatly increase the number of passengers it brings into Nassau in the future and needs to expand its options for them when they leave a ship while in port.
Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis while opposition leader contended in a statement in March 2020 that the deal with Royal Caribbean would “set back Bahamian industries and block Bahamians from the enjoyment of asset use and value in what little is available for ordinary Bahamians”.
“This is grossly unfair to Bahamians and the next PLP government will terminate this agreement,” Davis said.
“There are many compelling reasons to support our position. First and foremost, any project of this type should be owned and operated by Bahamians, fully utilizing Bahamian entrepreneurs, vendors, artists, entertainers, retailers, tour guides, water taxis, etc. Secondly, no non-Bahamian entity should receive preferential consideration over the many Bahamian applicants who have attempted to procure this property. Thirdly, all attempts to purchase this property in the past have been denied for reasons overwhelmingly in the public interest,” Davis added.
Smith is hoping Davis’ words hold true, so that he can develop his low-density beach club for Bahamians and visitors on the western end of Paradise Island.
Both Smith and RCI are vying for a tiny piece of beach both investors say their projects cannot do without. Both investors apparently hold Crown land leases for that beach that overlap.
Smith has already taken his battle with the government to court and has also had conversations with RCI.
Smith said he hopes the government will simply honor the lease he was given and allow him to move forward with his business with the same speed it seems to give to large, foreign investors.