Baha Mar: Blessing or Burden? - A Baseline Study of Local Perceptions

Elizabeth Mackay
Despite periodic setbacks, tourism continues to grow in the region, contributing more to gross domestic product, foreign exchange earnings and employment (WTTC 2014). The resiliency of the industry is often quoted as one of its greatest assets. Yet too, discussions continue regarding the ongoing lack of substantial linkages and resulting diminished multiplier effect and underperformance in economic advantages. Two sectors, large foreign owned resorts and the cruise industry are generally cited by scholars and researchers as the worst offenders in terms of their negative impacts and undermaximized economic contribution (Pinnock, 2014).

While scholars, researchers and policy makers may generally hold this view, it is interesting to note what local people - the general population, those who are neither specialists or even direct participants in the industry - think about mega resort developments and their impacts and contribution to development. Do they generally consider large mega resort developments as a blessing or a burden? Are they aware of or concerned about potential negative socio-cultural and economic impacts? Do they envision the Baha Mar development as a blessing to be embraced wholeheartedly with its promise of over 8,000 new jobs for Bahamians, its projected increase of 2.3 million room nights annually and its expected 10% increase to the current GDP of the Bahamas?

The Baha Mar development is a visually stunning beach resort development being constructed on 1,000 acres and half a mile of white sandy beach on Cable Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The development boasts four resorts with over 2,200 rooms; the Mondrian at Baha Mar, Rosewood at Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar and the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel. An 18-hole championship Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, the largest (100,000 square feet) casino in the Caribbean and a 200,000 square foot conference centre, the largest in the Bahamas, round out the offering. Dubbed ‘the Bahamian Riviera’ and ‘Vegas on the Beach’, the 3.5 billion US dollar Baha Mar development is the largest single phase resort development in the Caribbean. The development is financed by Export-Import Bank of China and is being constructed by China State Construction and Engineering Corporation.

Baha Mar: Blessing or Burden? - A Baseline Study of Local Perceptions surveyed citizens and residents of The Bahamas. A quota sample was used and questionnaires administered to record their perceptions on the Baha Mar project currently being developed with a slated opening date of December 2014. Questionnaires included areas such as congestion, crime, prostitution, employment, economic development, access, pollution, and casino gambling among others and sought to identify how the local population feels about the Baha Mar development and the likely impact it will have on their lives and on the Bahamas in general.

Field data is currently being processed and preliminary results indicate a majority of the diaspora are in favour of the Baha Mar development, are unconcerned about its size, enthusiastic about its potential benefits and anticipate minimal negative impacts on the island of New Providence.