Baha Mar’s Challenges For New Providence

Thursday 09th, September 2010 / 03:45 Published by

Despite the desperate need for development in the Bahamas at this time, the Baha Mar project may not be in the best interest of residents of New Providence.

Over two-thirds of Bahamians live on the Island of New Providence which already suffers from traffic congestion, pollution, electrical outages, crime, water shortages and garbage disposal problems.

Despite these challenges, the Bahamas government, desperate for economic stimulus, is set to approve one of the largest construction projects in the history of the Caribbean for the beleaguered island of New Providence.

Instead of steering the project to Grand Bahama, where it might be a better fit, the government wants to cram the Baha Mar development into Cable Beach, which will only exacerbate the problems mentioned above.

“The project seems to have become a political football. Decisions are being made for political reasons, not for the good of the Bahamas,” says one Cable Beach resident who offered her opinion outside the Super Value food store.

The construction, which is to last for years, will cause massive traffic problems for those who work downtown and live out west, adding at least 90 minutes to their daily commute.

The Saunders Beach construction was a problem for western residents and many are glad that it has been completed.  The Baha Mar construction, in comparison, will make the Saunders Beach project look like a pothole repair.

Little thought has been given to the introduction of thousands of Chinese workers into a city already strained by overpopulation, crime and pollution.

The sewers in the Cable Beach area are already overflowing, leaving the constant stench of sewerage wafting through the air around the Sandal’s Resort.

Add to that, the sewage created by thousands of additional Chinese workers and one wonders if West Bay Street will be ankle deep with sewer water, posing a serious health risk to residents.

“Where will the electricity come from to power the construction and the resulting development,” a young man asked.  “They can’t keep the lights on right now, how will they be able to power the new mega-resort?”

Water pressure in the Cable Beach area is reduced on a daily basis to ration the already low water supplies in New Providence.  A massive new development will only add to the problem.

What happens if China’s economy goes south during the next three years?  Analysts say that couldn’t happen. That’s what they said about the U.S economy ten years ago. Yet, look at the situation now.

Whose side will the Bahamas be on if a “situation” develops between the United States and North Korea, a staunch ally of China?

Even if construction is completed on time, with no major negative impact on New Providence residents, will the end result be worth it?

With the Bahamian market share of the global tourism market decreasing each year, it is highly optimistic to think that the Bahamian hospitality industry would be able to keep occupancy levels over 70% after adding thousands of new hotel rooms to the inventory, said a tourism marketing expert.

Within the several years that it will take to complete the construction of Baha Mar, it is expected that travel restrictions for U.S. citizens wanting to travel to Cuba will be relaxed. Whether Bahamians want to admit it or not, that will have a major impact on Bahamian tourism.

The future of tourism in the Bahamas lies with eco-tourism, specialty tourism and adventure tourism at small family island developments. A second mega-resort in an already mature and saturated market like New Providence, which currently relies mainly on cruise ship tourists, may not be sustainable.

Meanwhile, if Baha Mar is successful, it could only be at the expense of Atlantis, the Bahamas’ most popular tourist destination and a major contributor to the Bahamian economy.

What about employees?  Most of the best workers in the Bahamian hospitality industry are already employed.  While it is feasible to train more employees in the menial jobs skills required, it is far more difficult to change the bad attitudes that are so pervasive of employees in the Bahamian service sector.

Having a huge resort filled with skilled, but disgruntled, employees who provide lackluster service
will do nothing to inspire repeat visits, an important ingredient in the success of a regional mega-resort.

All those jobs, all that money, all those hotel rooms, all good for The Bahamas?  Or, is the Baha Mar project another hare-brained scheme being kicked around like a political football?

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