The Crown land being eyed by Royal Caribbean International (RCI) on the western end of Paradise Island will be an “important component” of the company’s proposed Royal Beach Club that could inject $26 million per annum into the economy, RCI’s Vice President of Government Relations for the Americas Russell Benford said yesterday, adding that the company is willing to work with other investors with interests near the 13 acres it has already purchased and Crown land it has requested from the government.
Benford said the land is important for the cruise line to be able to comfortably disperse the 3,500 guests it plans to accommodate at the Royal Beach Club.
“The Crown land is important, I think it is. Certainly because of the number of guests that we’re bringing.
“We feel like we need to get over 3,000 people a day to this attraction. We want people to move around, we don’t want people to feel crushed in one area and so the Crown land is an important component of that. How much government will grant is hard to say at this point, but I believe it’s very necessary.”
That Crown land is at the center of a growing tug-of-war between RCI and local developer Toby Smith, who has been working on plans for the Crown land and lighthouse that anchor the western end of Paradise Island for eight years.
Smith’s company, Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Co. Ltd. (PILBC), has already entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) on the restoration of the Paradise Island Lighthouse.
Smith wants five acres of the land, which includes a small, sandy portion and rocky portion of the already tiny Colonial Beach.
But Guardian Business understands RCI’s acquisition could push Smith’s project off the sand and on to the rock only, if government favors RCI’s proposal above Smith’s.
His low-density project is expected to cost $2 million, including the preservation of the lighthouse, while Benford said RCI’s project could top $100 million and employ 100 during construction and provide 150 permanent jobs to Bahamians.
Benford, who said RCI has already spent $50 million on land acquisition for the Royal Beach Club, explained that the project will include a large swimming pool, cabanas and beach chairs and is designed to be a simple day on the beach for cruise guests.
“Royal Caribbean International, we have a product called the Royal Beach Club,” said Benford.
“Late last year we announced our first Royal Beach Club, which is in Antigua; and our second Royal Beach Club will be here in Nassau.
“I think people are most familiar with our Perfect Day at Coco Cay… the Royal Beach Club will not be like that. It’ll be a day at the beach. It will have a large swimming pool, beach chairs, cabanas, things like that… Bahamian food, entertainers. But, it’s a nice, calm day at the beach, not the full-fledged Perfect Day product you’ve seen.”
Benford said RCI has been working on the idea for the Royal Beach Club in The Bahamas for a number of years, out of the need for the cruise line to get more passengers off of the ship and into Nassau. He explained that it is RCI’s intention to move those guests going to the club through Nassau’s port before taking a Bahamian-owned ferry to their destination.
“The Royal Beach Club is a way to get our guests off of the ship,” Benford said.
“We want all of our guests to leave the ship and when they’re off the ship they’re spending money. We think people will spend a few hours at the beach, but then once they’re through we want to create a ferry system where we’re moving people from Bay Street to Paradise Island, to possibly to other points of interest.
“And so this whole plan is a way to get people off the ships and to circulate our passengers throughout Nassau. We think once the project is complete, we’ll see a lot higher percentage of people getting off the ships moving around and spending money.
“Our data shows that once the project is complete in about two years, we think it will have a $25 million to $26 million dollar impact positively to Nassau every single year, just from the increased number of passengers and the spend and we’re quite proud of that number.”
Smith said he is also trying to give cruise passengers a novel experience on a plot of land that has historical and entertainment value.
But while neither party knows as yet how the government will dole out the Crown land, Benford said RCI is prepared to work with Smith.
“I don’t know what the boundaries of his property are, or what he’s looking for,” Benford said.
“That’s up to the government to decide on the Crown land, we don’t have any say into how much land he gets and where the parcels are. And so that’s something he’ll have to discuss with the government and we’ll discuss our project with the government as well.
“We have purchased 13 acres of land on Paradise Island. With respect to the Crown land, that’s up to the government to determine how much to give to us, so I don’t know how much they’re going to, or how much it’ll be.
“We really want to work with everybody involved… so that whatever project we undertake is beneficial to as many people as possible. So I think if we have opportunities to have discussions with the government about the project, if we have opportunities to talk to Mr. Smith, if there are ways to collaborate that would make our project better and his project better, or whomever’s project better, we’re open to doing that.
“But, I think ultimately we can’t determine how the land is parceled out, that is something the government will decide and we will respect the government’s decision.”
According to Benford, the beach club will provide Bahamian cultural immersion for its guests. He said RCI sees a lot of value in The Bahamas and contends that with more passengers being brought to Nassau in the future, there will be almost 14,000 guests to sell tours and excursions to from RCI’s cruises alone.