By Lindsay Thompson
The Government of The Bahamas entered into a new Heads of Agreement with Cotton Bay Holdings Ltd. for the addition of The Ritz-Carlton to that South Eleuthera property, translating into a rebounding tourism product and hundreds of jobs for Bahamians. This is in keeping with the Davis Administration’s pledge in its ‘Blue Print for Change’ to bring focused attention the promotion of trade and investment into the country.
The Heads of Agreement was signed during a ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, December 6, 2021. Present were the Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; the Hon. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Min. of Tourism, Investments and Aviation; Secretary to the Cabinet Nicole Campbell; Leon Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister; Phylicia Woods-Hanna, Director of Investments, Bahamas Investments Authority; Carol Young, Bahamas Investment Authority; Daniel Zuleta Martinez, Local Manager, Cotton Bay Holdings Ltd; Alejandro Acevedo, The Ritz-Carlton; and Lynn Holowesko, Attorney. Throwing his support behind the reinstatement of the agreement, Prime Minister Davis said Cotton Bay is “an igniting of the past,” and that branding is important as he referred to The Ritz-Carlton.
The Deputy Prime Minister underscored the importance of investments to the local economy of Eleuthera. “Investments have been the lifeblood of the economy. We have been restoring and bringing in new investments,” he said, adding that it is the intention of the Davis Administration to facilitate the “ease of doing business and being investor friendly.”
Mr. Zuleta Martinez said he was happy to launch the project, which is aimed at growing the economy of Eleuthera and creating opportunities for young people. An estimated 500 people will be employed to construct the 90-room property with a 60-villa Ritz Carlton over a 48-month period. At its completion, some 200 Bahamians are expected to be fully employed. The total cost is projected at $200 million. The deputy prime minister stressed that a Compliance Unit will be instituted to ensure fulfillment of the terms and conditions of all such Heads of Agreement. It will also ensure that Bahamians get first preference for employment opportunities, where available. “This is another philosophy of the Davis Administration,” he said.
The first signing was done under the former Christie Administration; however, according to the deputy prime minister,
investors are ready to proceed, as “the environment is now ripe for investment.” He added, “it is an important beginning and a bright future for residents of South Eleuthera in terms of job creation, new business opportunities and economic growth. We have seen increased interest in investment. The Ritz-Carlton brand is good for Eleuthera and we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Regarding this “new uptick” interest and “a new day” the minister said people have gotten the message that The Bahamas is open for business in an investor friendly environment. There is pent up demand for tourism. The Caribbean is rebounding faster than the world and The Bahamas is rebounding faster than the Caribbean.”
Regarding the new Omicron variant, the minister observed that The Bahamas does not exist in a vacuum and that it has effectively managed the COVID-19 pandemic through enhanced protocols. “So far it appears no more dangerous than the Delta variant but we are cautiously optimistic. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health [and Wellness] are ready to face the challenges.” And, with the recent hike in airlift into the country, the minister said that the demand for rooms would drive air traffic.