Blackbeard’s Cay Upgrade Eyes 100 Jobs
$5m Blackbeard’s Cay Upgrade Eyes 100 Jobs
More than $5 million has been invested in redeveloping Blackbeard’s Cay into an upscale visitor experience that will create 100 jobs, one of its principals said yesterday, arguing that Bay Street “no longer represents the Bahamas”.
Charles Carter, the former PLP MP and Cabinet Minister, dismissed Bay Street concerns over the project as “completely wrong”, adding that it did not involve construction of an Atlantis Marina Village-style development.
Describing the redevelopment as a ‘Beach Break’ project that would seek to attract both cruise and land-based tourists, plus Bahamians, Mr Carter said he and his fellow investors wanted to use it as a platform for the revival of Bahamian music, culture and nightlife.
Admitting that the Bahamian owners had “never really executed it right” before, Mr Carter said they had partnered with Samir Andrawos, operator of St Maarten Sightseeing Tours, as someone who had the industry knowledge and expertise to deliver what was required.
Revealing that the revamped Blackbeard’s Cay was set to open by end-May, Mr Carter told Tribune Business: “There’s been a substantial investment. It’s up over $5 million.
“At the end of that, we hope to have 100 new jobs. We’re certainly hoping to get it complete by the end of May. It got put off because we got wiped out by the hurricane [Sandy] that passed through here last year. We’re looking forward to its re-opening.”
Blackbeard’s Cay, or Balmoral, which is located off western New Providence opposite the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, has been closed for redevelopment for just over one year now.
It had previously employed around 100 persons prior to closure, and Mr Carter indicated that staffing numbers following the re-opening could ramp up to 200 if it proved successful – creating a net employment gain for the Bahamian economy.
Tribune Business yesterday revealed how Bay Street merchants had expressed “grave concerns” to the Government over the Blackbeard’s Cay project, fearing it would act as an ‘alternative’ Marina Village that would suck thousands of Carnival Cruise Lines’ passengers away from downtown Nassau daily.
Mr Carter, though, dismissed these claims as “completely wrong”. He added: “We are doing exactly what we have been doing for the past 20-25 years. It’s a Beach Break experience for visitors.”
Together with Mr Andrawos, the Bahamian investor group was enhancing and upgrading the visitor experience. A band stand for live musical entertainment was being added, along with a pool and patio.
Mr Carter said the major addition was a Dolphin attraction, on top of the previous stingray facility. Only one store – a Blackbeard’s Cay souvenir shop – was planned, along with a Bahamian-themed restaurant.
“I don’t think it’s going to harm anyone’s business model at all,” Mr Carter told Tribune Business. “It’s the same business model that we’ve always had. We’ve had stingrays before and now we’ll have mammals. That’s all. Nothing else has changed. I don’t know why people are upset.”
He suggested that the outcry may have resulted from the perception that Carnival was involved with the redevelopment, given Mr Andrawos’s close links to the world’s leading cruise line through his other Caribbean ventures.
Denying that this was the case, Mr Carter added: “We want Carnival’s business. We were involved with all the cruise lines before, and that’s the only way we’re going to make it an improved facility.”
Pointing out that Mr Andrawos’s involvement on Blackbeard’s Cay had been approved by the Government’s Investments Board, Mr Carter characterised his relationship with the Bahamian group as a “partnership” involving a rental agreement.
Apart from Mr Carter, the Bahamian investor group includes Abner Pinder; Insurance Management chief, Cedric Saunders; and attorney Craig Roberts.
“Bahamians own it 100 per cent,” the former Cabinet Minister added of Blackbeard’s Cay. “We’re all Bahamian and have been there for 15 years.”
Yet Mr Carter conceded that the group needed Mr Andrawos’s expertise to unlock Blackbeard’s Cay’s full potential.
“We got wiped out by a number of things,” he admitted to Tribune Business. “The way it was situated, before every winter the beach got wiped out, and the dock moved.
“The geographic features have now been corrected, so we’re not doing that and the same thing year after year. It required a substantial investment by people who know what they are doing. It’s really going to enhance the visitor experience.”
And Mr Carter added: “To tell you the truth, we never really executed it right. Now, we’re doing that, it’s going to be a while before it turns a profit, but hopefully it will.”
Speaking personally, as an advocate of Bahamian music and culture, Mr Carter said the Blackbeard’s Cay project aimed to integrate these into the tourist experience once again.
“The reason why these improvements are being made is to lengthen the tourist experience, make it more entertaining, and put the Bahamas back into the Bahamas,” he told Tribune Business.
“Drive down Bay Street at the moment. It’s dead. We’re going to have some entertainment there in the evening, giving Bahamian musicians a place to play.
“What’s on Bay Street today does not represent Bahamian culture; what’s on Bay Street today does not represent the Bahamas. What’s on Bay Street today represents what the merchants want.”
Questioning where Bahamian music could be heard today, Mr Carter added: “I like culture, my culture. I’m trying to put it back on display.”
In a further swipe at Bay Street, he said: “To prove the point, drive down Bay Street any time after 5pm. I drove through Bay Street on Saturday evening. There was no one there. Six pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm. That’s our main thoroughfare. We can’t be happy with that.”
He also criticised the multitude of fake “knock-off” goods that were sold in the downtown area, especially at the Straw Market.
“We can’t be happy with that. We have to set standards for our country,” Mr Carter told Tribune Business.
“I’d like to put the Bahamas and Bahamian culture into the mix. No one comes to the Bahamas for that. They come here for cheap fares and knock-off deals. We’ve lost the aura, lost the romance of coming to the Bahamas.”
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
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