Mega resorts disclose ‘bright’ COVID revival


Graeme Davis

• Baha Mar: 10% up on pre-pandemic going into 2022

• Atlantis ‘outperforming expectations’ on monthly basis

• Marinas’ online portal collects nearly $1m charter fees


Tribune Business Editor

The Bahamas’ two mega resorts yesterday branded their post-COVID recovery as “very bright” with Baha Mar revealing that “business on the books” for early 2022 is ten percent ahead of 2019 levels.

Graeme Davis, the Cable Beach-based property’s president, told a Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) meeting that room rates over this year’s second half were forecast to be ahead of 2019’s record year for tourism arrivals with occupancies also rebounding from a second quarter when they were 45 percent down on pre-pandemic levels.

“From a business level standpoint, for the second quarter we reported that we were down 45 percent on occupancies compared to 2019 but rates were up ten percent,” he disclosed, adding that this was achieved without any group business. “For the third quarter, occupancy is flat compared to 2019 across the entire enterprise but [room] rates are up almost 25 percent.” 

Mr Davis said fourth quarter occupancies and room rates for a period that includes the Thanksgiving and New Year holidays were currently forecast to both be five percent ahead of 2019 levels, which represent the last year before the global pandemic took hold.

“As we look forward into 2022 I’m pleased to report that the pace is up over 2019. We’re up about ten percent on business levels on the books going into 2022 compared to 2019. It looks very bright for the third and fourth quarters,” the Baha Mar chief said.

He added that the mega resort’s comeback to-date, following its mid-December re-opening, had been driven almost solely by leisure and transient travellers. Baha Mar, along with its competitors, has yet to see the return of significant group/convention business to these shores with this segment thought to be among the last that will rebound.

Yet Mr Davis said Baha Mar was now starting to see positive signs from this niche, adding: “As we get into August and the later months, we’re starting to see group business return with very few cancellations at this time.”

Baha Mar includes the Grand Hyatt, Rosewood and SLS properties, and Mr Davis revealed that the Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) owned mega resort has to-date provided more than 200,000 complementary rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to its employees and guests.

“Seventy-six percent of guests are fully vaccinated when they arrive here at Baha Mar,” he added. “We continue to create a safe environment for guests and associates at Baha Mar.” Mr Davis said renovations are also underway at CTFE’s now-closed Melia Nassau Beach Resort, and promised that there would be “more to come” on those upgrades in future months.

As for Baha Mar itself, he said the newly-opened $200m Baha Bay water park had been “very well received by our guests” and the mega resort was now developing rates and looking to open the facility to Bahamians within the next few months.

Baha Mar has also opened its beachfront restaurant, Marcus Samuelson’s Fish and Chop House, which will be operated by the Grand Hyatt. The chef from whom the restaurant takes its name was present at the resort complex last week, and Mr Davis added that a Chinese restaurant will today open on the casino floor.

Meanwhile, Jackson Weech, Atlantis’ vice-president, disclosed that the Paradise Island property’s was continuing to outperform management expectations through July having already beaten forecasts for August.

With the Cove, Reef, Royal and Coral Towers now all fully open, he said: “These trends are very positive. June turned out much stronger than expected and beat expectations. For July, growth is still occurring. It has continued in a positive vein, and is outperforming what we had been doing in June.”

Mr Weech added that “August looks healthy” as the mega resort “outperforms expectations” in the same manner as Baha Mar - relying solely on its leisure travel segment to drive business. “Groups are showing signs of improvement, and as we look to 2022 we certainly are encouraged from a group perspective,” he said.

The Atlantis vice-president added that the pre-season college basketball tournament, Battle 4 Atlantis, will return this fall and be preceded by a women’s version due to take place two days before the men’s event. 

The resort has also within the past two months re-opened restaurants including Fish by Jose Andres, Carmine’s and Frankie Gone Bananas, as well as its water-based adventure theme park.

“We’re very optimistic about what is happening from a business perspective over the next few months, and are looking forward to continued growth here at Atlantis,” Mr Weech said.

Joseph Dargavage, the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) vice-president, yesterday said the SeaZPass online portal that was developed to collect the four percent charter fee from vessels in Bahamian waters had already generated “close to $1m in the first few months since it’s been online”.

He added: “We knew that if we could get boating and yachting going again, and vacation rentals in the Out Islands, that things would only take off. The first and second quarters were record-breaking months for the yachting industry. We had more vessels in The Bahamas than ever before...

“The second half of 2021 is looking just as good. We’re happy to say this is not in one particular location; Exuma, all of Eleuthera, and Abaco are bouncing back quite nicely. For Nassau, all you have to do is look at the Bay Street marinas, the cruise port where larger vessels are starting to tie-up and Albany.”

Mr Dargavage said the Bahamas Charter Yacht Show will return to The Bahamas next year, having been held in Florida for 2021. He added that the goal was for it to grow to a point where it can rival the Caribbean’s largest yacht show, currently held in Antigua, within five years.

“The charter industry is reporting to us that they had the best six months in chartering in The Bahamas,” Mr Dargavage continued. “We have heavy competition with the Mediterranean and the Caribbean re-opening. We feel we are attracting many, many new vessels that have not spent time in The Bahamas, and feel there is no reason why we cannot keep them coming back to The Bahamas.”