By the time the $3.5 billion mega resort opens late next year, both the public and private sector estimates that the country requires at least another 400,000 air arrivals each year.
Executives at Baha Mar noted that the new Lynden Pindling International Airport is now capable of handling A380 aircraft, the largest commercial planes on the market that are capable of long-haul flights.
Sarkis Izmirlian, the CEO of Baha Mar, said The Bahamas must end its reliance on U.S. tourists.
"It's easy and right in our backyard. One thing the recession has taught us is we need to diversity the tourism base," he explained. "We are working on direct airlift from Brazil and more from Europe. I know some of the Russian airlines have been in touch with the Bahamian government and with the airport upgrade they want to bring flights in from Russia. I also think we will get direct flights in from China."
Given Baha Mar's strong Asian connections, the latter is particularly of interest.
Obie Wilchcombe, the minister of tourism, told Guardian Business that eliminating the visa procedure for Chinese tourists remains a top priority.
He noted that visitors from Russia and Latin America no longer require this documentation, and as The Bahamas continues to look outward, efficiency and openness are crucial.
"When visitors come to us, they need to know how to get here and that it won't be complicated. We want to open some other markets, even in America as well. We need to make sure we have markets we are not catering to right now," Wilchcombe told Guardian Business.
Following a recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, the minister further revealed that the airline Emirates has signed a new agreement with U.S. airline JetBlue, which often flies into The Bahamas from numerous locations.
The government is working with these airlines to hammer out relationships and foster connectivity to Bahamian destinations.
The comments from Izmirlian and Wilchcombe are indeed part of a greater all-out effort by the public and private sector to significantly boost airlift. Delegations involving government, the promotion boards and major resorts in Nassau, such as Atlantis, continue to meet with airline executives to ensure sufficient traffic prior to December 2014.
read more »
Trading volume for the twelve-month period was 4,080,393 shares for a value of $18,892,061.93. For the three-month period from October 1 to December 31, 679,075 shares traded for a value of $3,732,476.83.
By comparison, trading volume for the twelve-month period ending December 31, 2011 was 2,899,465 shares for a value of $15,015,550.70. For the three-month period from October 1 to December 31, 2011, 840,608 shares traded for a value of $5,179,938.36.
As at December 31, 2012 the market was comprised of 27 primary market listings with a market capitalization of $2.87 billion. The primary market securities traded over BISX include 20 common share listings, 3 preference share listings and 4 tranches of debt.
The BISX All-Share Index is a market capitalization weighted index comprised of all primary market listings excluding debt securities.
The statistics further revealed that for the twelve-month period the average daily trading volume was 16,146 shares, which resulted in an average daily trading value of $74,433. During the twelve-month period, May 2012 saw the highest average daily trading volume and value with 41,072 shares and $149,795 trading respectively. By comparison, the twelve month period ended December 31, 2011 saw an average daily trading volume of 11,451 shares which resulted in an average daily trading value of $59,674.
read more »
Held in the Atlantis Theatre on Friday, May 10th, the Quartz period for 2013 saw 115 general staff nominees vie for the title of overall divisional winner, while a total of 10 managers and 6 leaders hoped to be named winner of the Quartz period in their respective categories.
read more »
Sarkis Izmirlian, CEO of the mega resort, told Guardian Business that nobody forces tourists to choose The Bahamas. All Bahamians must make it easy for them if the country wishes its number one industry to prosper.
"We have come a long way with the new airport and the new road bringing people to Baha Mar," he said. "And it goes back to the service we provide the moment they arrive. We are all responsible to make sure we provide seamless service. If any one of us fails, we fail the country."
The topic of service is a timely one. In the lead-up to Baha Mar's opening in December 2014, questions have been raised as to whether the luxurious $3.5 billion mega resort can back up its brands. The project is set to deliver thousands of new jobs when it opens next year.
Providing excellent service and bolstering "soft skills" among Bahamian workers have also been points of concern for the Ministry of Tourism, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association and the Inter-American Development Bank. Atlantis, the other mega resort on Paradise Island, recently noted that it often grapples with a skills shortage when it comes to hiring quality workers.
Several months ago, Guardian Business revealed that top executives from Rosewood, the most high-end brand at Baha Mar, met with tourism officials to specifically discuss the issue of service.
Izmirlian, who lives full-time in Lyford Cay, said that, in his experience, The Bahamas has delivered some of the best service.
"So I know we can do it," he added.
The key, according to the CEO, is finding a selection of people with a genuine service mentality. Those qualities are difficult to teach, he said, and the fact that The Bahamas is a small country makes it a challenge to find those people in significant numbers.
Izmirlian said the ongoing efforts in high schools and The College of The Bahamas, effectively headhunting the best in Bahamian tourism, should go a long way. The resort has also an active campaign overseas to locate and woo Bahamians living abroad.
"We are going to get the best out of the Bahamian people," he told Guardian Business.
William Weidner, the CEO of Baha Mar's new casino partner, Global Gaming Asset Management (GGAM), will also play an important role in service culture.
Indeed, the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel is the largest of the brands and services as the centerpiece of the resort.
His approach involves borrowing some of the employee principals at Disney, the iconic tourism brand. In his mind, Bahamians need to feel like the employer cares about them. If workers feel valued, those positive sentiments will find themselves in the workplace.
"When people come to work, there is always something else going on, such as issues at home," Weidner explained. "How do we create an environment where the employee can solve or forget about that? We need to help them get rid of that, so they can only focus on the customer in front of them."
read more »
Chet Nevins, general manager at Colina Mortgage Corporation, told Guardian Business that there is a level of uncertainty and concern when it comes to the legislation from a lender's perspective.
"Some of the earlier drafts were suggesting that they wanted the lenders to basically forgive substantial amounts of interest and to limit whether or not they could recover their collateral. If that is the case and you get to a certain point in the loan where everything otherwise is going to be forgiven, it creates a moral hazard where the client may never repay its obligations," he explained.
"If it's not a clear deal that makes sense for both parties from the beginning, then we may never enter into such agreements and that would be very damaging to the credit market and the future growth of businesses.
The bill is designed to give borrowers more protection as it relates to home loans. They would receive additional time to repay on defaulted loans, through court intervention, in a bid to avoid foreclosure. However, Nevins fears it could create an environment that's very selective as to who to lend to or if to at all.
It would also allow a borrower to transfer a mortgage from one bank to another without having to pay stamp tax if the loan is less than five years old. The legislation would also allow mortgage applicants to retain a lawyer, appraiser and insurance company of their choice when getting home loans. It would also prohibit excessive salary deductions through regulations. Additionally, the bill would give the court additional powers to rule over mortgage loans.
Under the legislation, the court would be able to grant relief from the consequences of a mortgagor's breach of a contract for non-payment of interest or principal in certain circumstances.
"I think that presently the current legal system already provides a lot of flexibility for the judges. When we do try to recover collateral, we typically have to get either a foreclosure or a vacant possession before we proceed. During that point in time, judges can exercise their judgment and often provide additional time for homeowners to seek other answers. So in that regard, I don't think we need to fix a system that truly isn't broken," Nevins pointed out.
"Financial institutions do want to assist their borrowers and we're in the business of lending money. We want our loans to be performing loans, we want our clients to be able to meet their obligations and we do work with them. We try to find ways that they can do that but clearly it's a challenge if it's not a sudden change in their circumstance but rather a long-term behavior, that's a different matter."
Meanwhile, Nathaniel Beneby Jr., chairman of the Clearing Banks Association, said it's important that the Homeowners Protection Bill doesn't become counter-productive to future mortgage growth in the country.
"If it were to become too stringent, it could disallow Bahamians from becoming qualified to raise a mortgage. The banks then could become more conservative in their lending practices and policies. So that's the only caution that I would put out there. But the spirit of the Homeowners Protection Bill is designed to assist Bahamians with home ownership," he added.
Contravention of provisions of the bill could lead to a fine of $5,000 (in the case of a company) or $1,000 (in the case of a person).
The bill was tabled in the House of Assembly last November.
read more »
Club members received expert tips on how to reorganize and refresh their homes and personal style for the spring and summer seasons. The British Colonial Hilton & Club Liaison partnered with various local vendors and corporate partners who put on fantastic displays of their latest products including Quality Home Center, with its full displays of fresh new looks for every room of the home, including chic colorful furniture pieces. John Bull highlighted its new designer bag and shoe collections from Coach, Michael Kors and more, while the Cosmetic Boutique and the MAC style team of Nestae and Deangelo gave great makeup tips and complimentary spring makeovers for attendees.
Members were able to see and purchase designer straw bags, fabulous jewelry, and summer and beach fashions from vendors including Sonia's Crafts, Minka Swimwear, Point of View and Tanya Sunders Boutique and Creative Jewelry. Guests also received great tips on healthy hair care from Hair & Now. Of course the makeovers would not have been complete without some hands-on tips on rejuvenation, as complimentary massage treatments and brow waxing were available from the teams from Creative Beauty, Marcian Bethel and Total Bliss.
Guests enjoyed the high energy and excitement of the evening, as great prizes were given away while the Hilton Bullion Bar team was present with signature Bullion drinks to sample and enjoy, along with delicious treats from the Hilton culinary team. Jamiel Clarke, Hilton Beach Club manager, was also on hand to provide information on the exciting corporate/individual option and gave away prizes inviting guests to experience some of the club's benefits.
Club Liaison is a region-wide recognition program which aims to reward a select group of representatives of corporate accounts responsible for booking guestrooms and meetings at any of our properties throughout the Caribbean region.
In joining Club Liaison at no cost, you are eligible to accrue points for your bookings and convert them into attractive awards.
For further information, kindly contact Audra Riley, senior sales/corporate manager.
read more »
"Ray brings with him nearly ten years of experience in the payments industry, together with strong a background in financial analysis and a range of international financial experience, having held positions for MasterCard in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean," said Mario Perez Jr., General Manager for MasterCard in the Caribbean. "As the head of one of our most significant markets in the sub-region, Ray will be tasked with providing leadership and necessary support in connection with delivery of advanced products and services to meet the demands of the market."
Having held positions for MasterCard in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Ray brings with him nearly ten years of experience within the payment industry. Merceron first joined MasterCard in 2004, and has since held positions in finance, as well as in the area of customer delivery, where, through continuous customer interaction, he was instrumental in the establishment of MasterCard's Maestro brand as the predominant brand in the Netherlands.
Prior to joining MasterCard he held an account management role at Avaya, a global provider of business communications and collaboration systems, where he was responsible for identifying business opportunities with new clients in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
"I am very proud to become part of the Caribbean team at MasterCard, leading a group of markets with as much potential as the Western Caribbean," said Merceron. "I look forward toward working on implementing effective strategies and plans in these markets while leveraging our innovative company culture that continues to offer solutions that are safe, simple and smart".
Merceron was born and raised in Haiti, where he received his secondary education, and later attended Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in business and technology.
read more »
With the opening of the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel in December 2014, the country will have four active licenses. The mega resort will join Atlantis, Treasure Cay in Grand Bahama and Resorts World Bimini Bay. Meanwhile, there are four inactive casino licenses, including two in Grand Bahama, one in New Providence and another at Club Med in San Salvador.
Obie Wilchcombe, the minister of tourism, said Baha Mar should be a "gigantic jackpot", which spurs more focus and innovation in the industry.
"The Bahamas has had gaming for a long time, but it served simply as an amenity," he explained. "I think what they (Baha Mar) are doing now is causing a transformation for us to become a gaming nation. It is revolutionary."
Wilchcombe made the bold statement following Baha Mar's much-anticipated announcement concerning its casino partner. During an exclusive luncheon at G2E Asia 2013, Sarkis Izmirlian, the CEO of Baha Mar, named Global Gaming Asset Management as its casino partner.
GGAM is an international firm behind some of the biggest and most glamorous gaming destinations around the world.
On the topic of gaming, Izmirlian said The Bahamas has been operating with "one hand tied behind its back" given the outdated laws.
It's a reality that hasn't been lost on government officials. Wilchcombe said that updated legislation was being completed "with haste" and could come before Parliament by next week.
The new laws will pave the way for innovations such as mobile gaming, sports betting and new technologies and innovations designed to boost revenue.
"If we are serious about competing on the world stage, then we have to update the laws," Izmirlian added.
Macau, considered the premier gaming destination in the world, has surpassed Las Vegas in revenue. The Baha Mar CEO said G2E Asia 2013 was the appropriate venue to announce its casino partnership, as it seeks to raise the bar and transplant Macau's success in The Bahamas.
While the country is unlikely to reach that jurisdiction's level of revenue, Guardian Business understands that stakeholders hope to at least triple or quadruple the current haul. That would give The Bahamas upwards of $500 million to $700 million in annual gaming revenue.
The Bahamas could support eight active casino licenses, according to the Ministry of Tourism, particularly if the venues are of varying sizes. Wilchcombe said gaming will play a crucial role in employment and tourism in the country over the coming years.
He noted that Bahamians gambling in casinos, however, could be placed on the back-burner. He made it clear that updating the gaming laws is the priority.
"The debate needs to continue and there must be more education first. There is an ongoing process," he said.
read more »
Despite the country's financial situation deteriorating for the past four years, Edward Al-Hussainy, assistant vice president and analyst at Moody's, said The Bahamas' debt is not unsustainable and at a level where there is a need for "alarm bells to ring". However, he did point out that the debt level continues to rise.
"It's definitely growing and putting the brakes on the growth in debt is still far from being concrete. The debt is not unsustainable but the level is high and it continues to increase. In fact, The Bahamas' financial situation has been deteriorating over the last three to four years," he said.
Al-Hussainy, who spoke to Guardian Business from the Caribbean Development Bank's annual meeting in St. Lucia this week, revealed that he is more optimistic about The Bahamas' position in comparison to its regional counterparts.
"The rest of the region is really suffering. However, The Bahamas has had a little bit of growth last year, not as high as the government expected, but it was still over one percent growth. There is still a lot of investment happening in The Bahamas including Baha Mar and other touristic developments. We're more optimistic about the position that The Bahamas is in relative to a lot of other countries," he explained.
On Monday, Moody's released its latest Credit Outlook report where it unveiled that sovereign credit quality is expected to continue deteriorating in the Caribbean region.
"I think what we're seeing is that countries are having a really tough time and in many ways this is making debt loads unsustainable," said Al-Hussainy.
"Looking ahead, the balance between improvements in economic growth and the speed, content and sustainability of fiscal adjustments will drive sovereign credit quality in the Caribbean," the report noted.
"We expect limited progress in establishing mechanisms that contain the fiscal and macroeconomic imbalances in government and external deficits. As a result, public sector balance sheets will remain stressed and some countries will experience liquidity crises that precipitate default."
"In addition to weak fiscal fundamentals, we see significant risk arising from contingent liabilities stemming from highly indebted public corporations (Caribbean Airlines) in Trinidad and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation in The Bahamas, weak domestic banks and a poorly regulated non-bank financial sector, primarily insurers and credit unions," the report further noted.
According to Al-Hussainy there are three ways to generate growth: structural changes, the imposition of heavy fiscal austerity or resolving/restructuring debt.
"Countries are finding that restarting growth is very difficult. We are finding that more countries are opting to resolve/restructure their debt because structural adjustments take a lot of time and have not been successful over the years," Al-Hussainy stated.
Jamaica, Belize and Grenada have been listed in this week's Moody's Credit Outlook as countries that are heavily indebted.
read more »
Sarkis Izmirlian, CEO of the $3.5 billion mega resort, said that these two legacy properties on Cable Beach will be treated as "sister hotels", not unlike the arrangement between Comfort Suites and Atlantis on Paradise Island.
The Sheraton and Wyndham can benefit from many of the amenities at Baha Mar and rooms would come at a reduced rate. Over time, however, both properties have been earmarked for redevelopment.
"We have plenty of space, another three or four million square feet for phase two," he told Guardian Business. "So we will treat them as sister properties until we redevelop them."
Izmirlian did not give a timeframe for when this might occur, noting he has "enough construction on my plate". The timetable could be determined by demand after the official opening of Baha Mar in December 2014.
Since construction began, the Sheraton and Wyndham have kept their heads above water. Parts of the Wyndham have been demolished during the process to make way for construction.
Baha Mar, the largest single-phase resort construction project in the western hemisphere, will feature hotel brands such as Rosewood, Mondrian and Grand Hyatt. Baha Mar Casino & Hotel serves as the project's centerpiece, boasting the biggest gaming floor in the region. The development will deliver more than 2,000 new rooms, along with 3,000 feet of beachfront and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
"These types of projects are incredibly difficult to pull off anywhere in the world, but we pulled it off in The Bahamas, in the middle of a recession, which is a credit to the management team," he said.
"And now we'll open as the world recovers."
The comments from Izmirlian came shortly after Baha Mar announced that Global Gaming Asset Management (GGAM) has signed on to manage the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel.
William Weidner, the CEO of GGAM, said his job is now to "take a rifle instead of a shotgun" when it comes to enticing top clients.
While appealing to a wide market, the gaming facility is also seeking high-net-worth individuals from around the world, including China.
The combination of Baha Mar and Atlantis on one island makes The Bahamas unlike any tourism destination out there, he added, giving the country a "chocolate and vanilla" combination.
He said Baha Mar Casino & Hotel will cause others to "up their game".
"There is a way to create your own brand and heighten awareness of the destination at the same time. When you hear Baha Mar, it's almost like you're hearing The Bahamas," he said.
read more »
The country's current Fisheries Act came into force back in 1977.
Prime Minister Perry Christie launched the initiative last night at the British Colonial Hilton to a room full of stakeholders in the fisheries sector, including V. Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture, marine resources and local government and consultants from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Fish II Programme.
The consultation process is part of the ACP Fish II Programme, which is four-and-a-half-year initiative that's being financed by the European Development Fund. It's designed to improve fisheries management in ACP countries and ensure that fisheries resources under the jurisdiction of these countries are exploited in a sustainable manner.
This venture is expected to eventually lead to poverty alleviation and the improvement of food security in ACP states.
"The expected results of the program are improved fisheries policies and management plans at regional and national levels; reinforced control and enforcement capabilities; reinforced national and regional research strategies and initiatives; developed business supportive regulatory frameworks and private sector investment and increased knowledge sharing on fisheries management and trade at a regional level," according to the program's website.
The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) has been agitating for stricter penalties and greater enforcement of current fishing regulations.
"When we start doing that, we will apprehend the poachers," said Adrian LaRoda, president of the BCFA. "Once they are convicted, then you send them to jail. Our fisheries regulations state that you are guilty until proven innocent. If you are found with fish on your vessel and you are not a Bahamian-registered vessel, it is assumed that the fish was caught in The Bahamas and if you are not a licensed commercial fishing vessel in The Bahamas, then you are doing illegal fishing,"
Last October, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell led a delegation to the Dominican Republic for high-level bilateral talks on the long-standing and vexing problem of illegal poaching in Bahamian waters.
The Bahamas has between 6,000 and 9,000 fishermen, and the BCFA is looking to create a registry as part of its plans to properly manage the industry.
LaRoda told Guardian Business that creating a fishing registry is a part of the requirements for Marine Stewardships Council (MSC) certification. The move, he said, will give the country's fishermen access to major markets. It could also go a long way to eliminating rampant poaching in Bahamian waters.
LaRoda believes there will be no question as to the sustainability and quality of the country's products and resources once The Bahamas is MSC-certified. However, the BCFA chief also emphasized the need for all of The Bahamas' marine resources to be properly managed.
read more »
CWC reported EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of US$905 million, ahead of its prior year and analyst expectations.
In the past year, CWC has disposed of two business units - Macau and its 'islands' business - to focus on the Caribbean and Central America. The disposals will enable CWC to increase its investment in that region, including in The Bahamas.
The company has invested more than US$100 million in the past two years in The Bahamas, and that included the completion of the country's first high speed mobile data network and a Next Generation Network (NGN) to replace roughly half of the company's existing landline platform. The NGN places BTC customers on par with those of any major metropolitan commercial or financial center anywhere in the world.
The new networks have broadened the services available to customers, and has been well-received. Mobile data traffic on the new mobile network has risen by 28,000 percent since it was introduced and approximately one million more mobile calls are made per day on average (from 2.5 million calls to three million calls).
In the past year, the company has continued to refurbish stores and now has 13 flagship retail outlets. The company now has plans to increase the number of BTC franchises by 20-30, creating new businesses run by Bahamians.
The phones available in stores have also changed significantly in the past two years. When CWC took charge of BTC, the company sold only the BlackBerry smartphone. The latest smartphones, including the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy range, are now available to all customers in The Bahamas.
In 2013/14, CWC intends to introduce an even higher speed LTE mobile data network experience, enabling customers to watch video on their smartphones.
Tony Rice, Cable & Wireless Communications' chief executive and BTC's chairman commented: "We are pleased with BTC's performance during 2012/13. Since we took control of the business in 2011, we have invested substantially in BTC and have undertaken a large restructuring program. We have improved the value customers receive by reducing prices by up to 40 percent, as well introducing new services like mobile data and new handsets like the iPhone. I want to pay tribute to the BTC team who managed this change well and delivered for our customers. We face a new challenge with mobile competition arriving in the future, but we do so from a strong platform."
read more »
The debate over what has been called "unauthorized dredging of the seabed" at Simms Point, the residence of fashion mogul Peter Nygard, has brewed for some time and in 2010, the celebrity designer was ordered by the government to return the land to its original state. Tensions in the Lyford Cay community built as the Nygard property did, but this is the first time a legal action related to construction activities affecting the seabed has been filed against Nygard. The outcome of the action could cause the courts to decide what is to be done about what started out as a three-acre parcel that is now more than six acres with its expansion, detractors claiming, impacting Clifton Heritage Park, causing erosion and damaging the fragile coral reef that experts have said at one time was home to "the world's most beautiful elk horn coral."
The action was filed by the law firm Callenders & Co. on behalf of Save the Bays (formerly Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay), the new umbrella organization. Respondents include several government departments, the Town Planning Committee, Peter Nygard and Mr. Nygard's associate, former ambassador to the environment Keod Smith.
"We are seeking a judicial review on the basis that Save the Bays represents the collective interests of persons committed to protecting Clifton Bay and other parts of The Bahamas of particular environmental interest," said Fred Smith, QC, a partner in Callenders & Co. In addition to judicial review, the action seeks an interim injunction restraining Nygard and Smith from continuing what it called "unauthorized construction and dredging." It also alleges that Nygard and Smith are trespassing on Crown land. Specifically, it cites construction of a groyne, dredging of the seabed, demolition of an existing dock at Jaws Beach, construction of a new dock on the seabed and beach and the placement of large boulders on the western edge of the public boat ramp at Jaws Beach. The alleged damage to the reef and seabed has been documented in more than one dozen independent studies, according to supporters of Save the Bays. The Lyford Cay Property Owners Association, representing more than 400 homeowners, has also gone on record opposing the activities at Nygard Cay.
"In a nutshell, the judicial review seeks to determine whether the rule of law applies in The Bahamas or not," said Fred Smith.
Legal experts say the action asks the government to "exercise its statutory powers, given for the purposes of maintaining the environment in relation to the unlawful reclamation of Crown land and unpermitted construction activities at Nygard Cay and Jaws Beach." The suit alleges that the works being carried out "without the requisite permits and approvals constitute offenses under the Planning and Subdivision Act, the Building and Regulation Act and the Coast Protection Act."
Initially called the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, the organization announced its name change to Save the Bays in early May to avoid confusion with the original coalition to save the historic area east of Lyford Cay for the Bahamian public when it was the target of developers some 14 years ago. At that time, the coalition called for the creation of a land and sea park but only the land park was created. The original coalition continues to call for the sea park and has expressed concern about activities at Nygard Cay. With many of the same supporters in both organizations, Save the Bays is also urging the passage of a Freedom of Information Act and an Environmental Protection Act.
read more »
"The heavy rains that we had on Tuesday caused some flooding at the East Bay Street branch," said Commonwealth Bank President Ian Jennings. "We've been able to get in there and assess the situation, and we were fortunate. There was no significant loss of equipment. We remained closed on Wednesday to ensure that our customers would not be subjected to anything that would make them uncomfortable. We wanted to make sure it was completely dry."
The Oakes Field branch, which is scheduled for renovation and expansion later this year, was not so fortunate. Fire broke out after an apparent lightning strike hit the building. Firefighters and police officers had to fight the fire during the height of Tuesday's stormy weather.
"The police were there last night despite the weather so we are very appreciative," said Jennings. "We need to wait until they have completed their investigation and then we can get in and do a full damage assessment."
In the meantime, customers are asked to visit any other Commonwealth Bank branch. There are eight branches on New Providence and numerous off-site ABMs as well as those located at branches.
read more »
"The heavy rains that we had on Tuesday caused some flooding in the East Bay branch," said Commonwealth Bank President Ian Jennings. "We've been able to get in there and assess the situation, and we were fortunate. There was no significant loss of equipment. We remained closed on Wednesday to ensure that our customers would not be subjected to anything that would make them uncomfortable. We wanted to make sure it was completely dry."
read more »
Striding through The Venetian in a crisp suit, he navigates one of the largest and most crowded buildings in the world with efficiency and precision. He nods and shakes hands with everyone, from the lowly security guards to high rollers on a nearly 500,000-square-foot casino floor.
Wu has been a big player in Macau's gambling arena for years, serving as a top executive for Sands Macau. He later went into business development by focusing exclusively on VIP gamers from China and South East Asia.
And now, he belongs to Baha Mar.
"The most important element to differentiate yourself from other casinos is to have the best experience. Anyone can build a large or beautiful building. It is the service and actual experience that matters. The unique little touches," according to Wu, who is the $3.5 billion resort's new senior vice president of international casino marketing and alliances.
Wu will be one of the important faces at Baha Mar's exhibit at G2E Asia 2013, the largest gaming exhibition in the world. The event, starting tomorrow, will be a launching pad for a major announcement by Baha Mar on its much-anticipated casino product.
Certainly, Macau's fingerprints will be all over what has been billed as the largest gaming facility in the Caribbean.
Wu described the up-and-coming destination as the first true east meets west casino. Baha Mar executives have made no secret of their intention to attract high-net-worth individuals from China and other Asian centers.
The resort is being built by China Construction America and financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.
While the casino should have the "flash and energy" of Las Vegas, it will also have the uniqueness, exoticism and service of Macau.
Wu told Guardian Business that in Macau, eating at gaming tables can be quite common. Asian gamblers tend to be focused and dedicated at the tables, often preferring to save time and money when it comes to food. A similar approach could find its way into sections of Baha Mar's casino, including an Asian noodle soup pit stop specifically designed for efficient eating.
The Bahamian mega resort has even enlisted Feng Shui masters to analyze and craft certain aspects and corners of the casino. Fen Shui is a Chinese system of geometry and design believed to promote fortune and a positive spiritual experience.
"Colors are important. Carpets have Bahamian and Asian elements, all luck driven. They have symbols of luck and fortune. In general there are a lot of Chinese elements in the design," Wu explained.
Combined with the aesthetic will be table games and slot machines that one might find on a gaming floor in Macau. Executives have considered a Macau-style gaming section exclusively for this type of play.
"Most of important of all, a key target market are Asians. Not Asians just from Asia, but Asians in the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe," Wu told Guardian Business.
Robert "Sandy" Sands, senior vice president of administration and external relations, revealed on Tuesday that Baha Mar is seeking up to 25,000 high-net-worth gamblers from Asia each year.
The mega resort is focused on air service from that region in the hopes of building up to direct flights in Nassau.
Sands said that gaming will comprise up to one-third of all business at Baha Mar. The casino hotel will be the largest, joining Grand Hyatt, Mondrian and Rosewood-branded hotels.
He told Guardian Business yesterday there is a clear recognition that Asian tourists need to be comfortable in The Bahamas.
"We must provide amenities that meet their needs, in terms of cuisine, customs and expectations. There will be a number of ways to make them comfortable coming to this jurisdiction," he said.
For Wu's part, while he is now based in The Bahamas, his job is to create strategic alliances with international casino partners and brands to drive this traffic and create awareness of the Bahamian product.
He believes that The Bahamas has a unique opportunity to carve a strong position in the gaming world given the archipelago's beaches and tropical appeal, bringing the flare of Macau to these shores, but with a Bahamian flavor.
read more »
James Smith, former minister of state for finance, pointed out to Guardian Business that while the economy has bottomed out, the country will continue to experience double digit unemployment numbers for some time to come. He called the situation "unfortunate", however, he is optimistic that The Bahamas is in a position to prevent a huge falloff.
"I think the country's economy has bottomed out since you are not seeing the huge job losses that we would have seen two and three years ago, and that's very important to the national income not falling. I think tourism is beginning to rebound. I believe what is going to happen here in the medium term, or in the next several years is we will have to exist with larger levels of unemployment than we're accustomed to."
Smith revealed that the full economic recovery of The Bahamas is dependent on several factors: the U.S. economy, expenditure restraint, efficient taxation and the collection system.
"The move to expand the tax regime to include a new tax and to improve the administrative efficiency of existing tax collection should together at least stop the bloodletting that we are seeing in terms of the growing deficit, and maybe bring us back to some normalcy in terms of matching revenue with expenditure," he told Guardian Business.
"A lot of it has to do with the rebound in the global economy because we generate a lot of our income from U.S. visitors and the performance in the U.S. economy is key to whatever happens here. But having said that, the level of debt and the trajectory of that debt, meaning growth year after year has to be brought under control and that can only happen with some form of expenditure restraint, plus more efficient tax collection and taxes."
The government is looking to implement a proposed 15 percent value added tax (VAT) that would take effect July 2014.
Smith said the proposed VAT will "essentially be a sales tax that applies on goods and services".
He told Guardian Business that a new tax system, including the proposed VAT, would seek to broaden the revenue base and lower the tax rate, which would be more equitable for The Bahamas.
read more »
A tax study released yesterday revealed that among countries across UHY's international network, including all members of the G7 as well as key emerging economies, Japan charges the highest taxes on corporate profits of US$100,000 (43%). The Bahamas, on the other hand, only charges taxes of 1%.
The UHY study notes that comparatively high corporation tax rates put businesses at a serious disadvantage and risks suppressing economic growth.
"With no form of direct taxation except the business license tax, The Bahamas' rate appears unusually low when compared to other countries. The amounts payable for business license fees do not, however, reflect the true taxes paid by the business community in indirect and direct taxes," noted Bain.
According to him, with high import duties, the high cost of fuel and wage expenses, the true tax on $1 million dollars' worth of revenues could be anywhere between 30-40%. He noted that the high levels of indirect taxes should be addressed as a matter of urgency if the economy of The Bahamas is to experience significant growth in the near future.
Bain's comments come as the government has proposed the introduction of a value added tax in an effort to broaden the tax base. The proposed tax would accompany the eventual reduction in import duties related to The Bahamas' accession to the World Trade Organization, and would also increase efficiency as it relates to tax collection. The Bahamas would apply a 15% VAT on a broad range of goods and services from July 1, 2014.
"The government has indicated that it is aware of the inhibitors to conducting business, and we are happy to report that our level of confidence has increased due to some recent pronouncements by the government in addressing the high cost of doing business in The Bahamas," said Bain. He added that the government has taken great pains to communicate to the business world, especially to international investors, that it is business-friendly and willing to take steps to welcome foreign direct investments into The Bahamas.
"Whether the recent pronouncements will result in a lower tax burden is left to be seen, but with no income taxes, the government is challenged to finance itself. It is doubtful that the government is in the position to, in the near future, reduce the total tax burden for businesses."
read more »
Devonshire Place, which is just down the street from the upcoming $3.5 billion Baha Mar, is marketed to young professionals as there continues to be limited options for this demographic.
The 20-unit development will consist of two and three-bedroom units starting at $239,000, making Devonshire Place Nassau's newest affordable gated community.
Ryan Knowles, a real estate agent at H.G. Christie Limited, revealed to Guardian Business that the response to the development from potential buyers has been "totally incredible". He believes its success so far speaks to the developer's reputation and the demand in the market.
"It's very rare in The Bahamas that a development is able to get pre-sales before any work has begun on construction activity. Bahamians usually want to see, touch and feel before they make a decision, sign a contract or make a deposit," Knowles pointed out.
"We have been able to sell out nearly half of the development before work even hit the ground, so I think that's pretty remarkable."
He confirmed that the land has been cleared at Devonshire Place and developers are preparing to break ground soon. Knowles called the development "exciting".
"It's midway between the old City Market and current Super Value location on Cable Beach. It is tucked away, three streets away from the main road. Obviously, it's close enough to the beach, shopping, restaurants, the clinic, and the gas station in Sandyport. In a year-and-a-half, you will have the excitement of Baha Mar so this development is really in the heart of the action," he noted.
In addition to all 20 units being end units, all will be outfitted with LED lighting.
"Every unit is an end unit, which gives every unit lots of light and additional windows. One special feature is that you have LED lighting throughout. With LED lighting, obviously it's going to be very energy efficient because it does not pull a lot of power and has the ability to keep the place really cool," according to Knowles.
I think that's pretty trendsetting, especially for a product in this price point. You normally see LED lighting in higher-end homes. To be able to achieve that at a $239,000 price point, that's really commendable."
Meantime, the company's vice president John Christie shared with Guardian Business he believes the western New Providence development will have a positive impact on the real estate market.
"Especially with Baha Mar coming, the timing is right. I think they should be able to sell fairly well. Once Baha Mar gets going, the value of property will increase over the next few years. Over the years, the prices have come down so it's a good time to buy as we move out of the recession," he added.
read more »
The celebration was a worldwide event led by CIBC Canada. Employees from all the bank's branches and units in the 17 countries in which CIBC FirstCaribbean operates, including The Bahamas, actively participated.
In the Bahamas, CIBC FirstCaribbean's Managing Director Marie Rodland-Allen said, "Employee Appreciation Day is important because it recognizes that employees of the bank are its greatest assets and that none of its plans and programs could be implemented successfully without its staff.
"For us, the day was quite successful and so many of our employees have expressed their appreciation for the commitment that we have shown them. That in itself is well worth the time that went into making the day special for them."
In addition to the branches and units being attractively decorated, the red carpet literally being rolled out to welcome employees and breakfast and lunch treats, one staff member welcomed a baby on that day! Overall, it was a grand, fun-filled CIBC FirstCaribbean employee celebration.
Head of Human Resources for The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands Siobhan Lloyd said to staff, including the members of the Appreciation Day Planning Committee, "Words cannot adequately express my profound appreciation and gratitude for your tremendous effort and dedication. You epitomize the CIBC FirstCaribbean value of teamwork. You helped make the day fun and you have contributed to an enormous boost in employee morale. We have certainly learnt from this experience that sometimes it is the small things in life that make the biggest difference. It may take less than five seconds to say thank you, but the feeling of appreciation to the recipient could last a lifetime!"
Each of the bank's employees in The Bahamas and the Caribbean received a card personalized by his/her manager and messages from different department heads and messages were sent to all employees from the bank's senior executive team.
Feedback suggests that the day will be remembered for a long time by CIBC FirstCaribbean's employees across the region.
CIBC FirstCaribbean is the largest, regionally-listed bank in the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean serving over 500,000 accounts in 17 markets, through 3,400 staff, across 100 branches and offices. The bank offers a full range of market-leading financial services in: Corporate and Investment Banking, Treasury Sales and Trading, Retail Banking, Wealth Management, Small Business and Credit Cards.
read more »
News by Category
- About Bahamians
- Caribbean News
- Press Releases
- Public Works/Infrastructure
- Video News
- World News
- Bahamas Local Stories
- Bahama Islands Info Stories
- Nassau Guardian Stories
- Tribune Stories
- The Bahamas Investor Stories
Latest News Comments
Most Read Today
- Commonwealth Bank East Bay Branch to Re-open Thursday, Oakes Field to Remain Closed for Damage Assessment
- 69 catechists honored as Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas the Turks and Caicos Islands celebrates 150 years
- Press Statement on Shares in Arawak Port Development
- Letter: Heartfelt thanks for tidying up eastern section of historic Western cemetery
- THURSDAY’S FIRST ROUND CANCELLED AT PURE SILK-BAHAMAS CLASSIC DUE TO FLOODING