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Emerald Bay plans to hire as many as 20 Bahamians this week to cope with the spike in occupancy expected at the elite Sandals property.
The hirings are "across the board", according to Jeremy Mutton, the general manager at Emerald Bay. Interviews are taking place at the Royal Bahamian in Nassau on Wednesday and interested parties are encouraged to bring their CV and health and police certification for interviews.
While the December and January period proved relatively quiet, Mutton told Guardian Business an aggressive marketing campaign seems to be paying off for 2012.
"We are looking to fill about 20 jobs," he said. "Basically we're seeing an upturn in the business from mid-January onwards. We will be hiring across the board, including waiters, bartenders, housemaids hostesses and activity staff."
Two managers from Emerald Bay are slated to conduct the interviews on Wednesday.
In particular, Mutton identified the resort's participation in Wheel of Fortune late last year as paying dividends in terms of occupancy. The popular U.S. game show spent an entire week in Exuma, broadcasting the location and brand to millions of viewers.
"We have seen an increase in our bookings so it seems to be coming to fruition. As our occupancy picks up, we'll make sure we have the correct staffing levels to accommodate and serve the guests," he added.
As for the future of Emerald Bay, Mutton echoed sentiments expressed by Adam Stewart, the CEO of Sandals, that no major projects are planned for the Exuma property in the near future. Sandals has invested $80 million in the resort since acquiring the site a few years ago. There are already 100 permanent employees and it boasts five restaurants, five bars, two pools, 150 slips and 183 rooms, as well as an 18-hole golf course.
Stewart told Guardian Business that the company hopes to turn a profit on Emerald Bay by 2013.
"It's now really a matter of maximizing and reaping the benefits of what we have done, and ensuring the standards we want to maintain are there," Mutton said.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Buena Vista Estate's micro distillery is targeting production of 50,000 rum cases per year, Tribune Business was told yesterday, its principals aiming for the John Watling brand to become "the rum of the Bahamas" following Bacardi's departure.
Although "still tinkering with brands", John Watling's Distillery principals confirmed a variety of rum blend and varieties would be produced under the 17th century buccaneer's name, and distributed through select Bahamian wholesalers, retailers and restaurants.
Mario Portuondo, who together with his brother Jose, cousins Pepin and Leon Argamasilla, and Guillermo Garcia-Lay, ...
With millions in investment and hundreds of employees, the rela- tionship between Atlantis and The Alicart Restaurant Group now represents an integral driver in the New Providence economy and there is reason to believe it could get even bigger.
Virgil's, the $10 million restaurant, held its grand opening this week amid great hopes and expec- tations. Boasting around 470 seats, it joins Carmines as another large- scale eatery on the resort.
Combined, that means there are more than 1,000 seats flying under the Alicart and Atlantis banner, creating jobs for nearly 400 Bahamians.
"In high season, we can probably push the number of seats at Virgil's to 650," said Jeffrey Bank, the CEO of Alicart.
"Carmines has around 350 or so. What we have done is fulfill a need brought on by a tremendous volume of guests. Our partnership with Kerzner International is great and we're open to more concepts. They get us and we get them. We'll stumble into the next project with them."
The grand opening of Virgil's at Atlantis is just the latest develop- ment in a company under rapid expansion.
Bank told Guardian Business that Alicart generally tries to open an new restaurant "at least once a year". Prior to the $10 million Virgil's, Alicart launched a Carmines in Washington D.C., and the company is currently in advanced talks to bring the fran- chise to Las Vegas.
In total, Alicart owns and operates seven restaurants, employs more than 1,000 people and owns the rights to 29 different restaurant concepts.
The other Virgil's, located in New York City's Times Square, is "one of the busiest restaurants in the country", according to Bank.
It's a hefty resume that has fit in well with the Atlantis business model.
And while there is room for further projects down the line, Bank said Alicart is still grappling with the giant that is Virgil's.
"For right now, this is obviously a big project," he explained. "This has got to be the biggest barbecue restaurant in the Caribbean, if not North America. We need to ease into things gradually."
Virgil's is in the midst of a "soft launch", whereby it's taking on limited capacity as it kicks the tires and trains its staff. The restaurant served around 500 guests on its opening day on Tuesday, Bank
said, and employees were forced to turn some guests away.
"We are big believers in the soft opening," he added.
"Every day is a judgement in terms of ramping things up. We want things to go well and it's no fair for someone who is on a vaca- tion to not get excellent service."
A huge part of that process, Bank felt, is training.
There are currently five Alicart employees on hand at Virgil's showing the nearly 200 Bahamian employees the ropes.
The company's presence will be lessened over time, followed by monthly visits from senior execu- tives. Meanwhile, Alicart is engaged in a training program with Bahamians that will see a handful fly to New York City in January to gain further expertise.
"We are always looking for peo- ple to move up," Bank said.
"Now that we have opened, we'll be identifying people to bring back to New York."
Perhaps one of the more specialized positions at Virgil's is the role of "Pit Master".
Bank told Guardian Business that the current Pit Master is on hand from New York. The Pit Master of the future, a Bahamian, spent six months in the U.S. prior to the opening of Virgil's. He's now back in Nassau and working under his American counterpart.
Within a year, the Bahamian will be taking over the smokers.
Time may not be completely on their side, however. Bank said Atlantis is expected near full capacity over Thanksgiving Weekend, as a number of special events, such as the college basket- ball tournament, are being planned.
"We expect to be off the races by Thanksgiving Weekend," he added.
"Many of the teams have booked private rooms. Atlantis will be at full capacity and I'm expecting it to be a happy problem."
The government has set July 1, 2014 as the date for the biggest change to the Bahamian tax system in recent memory. It plans to bring forward a value-added tax (VAT), to create a central revenue service and to cut many customs duty rates.
To inform the people of what will take place the government has published a white paper on VAT that is available for all to see on its website. The government has also pledged a significant public relations campaign to help educate the Bahamian people on the proposed new tax.
The government will have challenges with this education effort. In its white paper, it admits that VAT is one of the more complicated taxes. It involves multi level taxation up the chain of production and distribution and it also includes rebates for some.
The Bahamas has challenges with education. The public school system in New Providence has an average in the national exams somewhere not too far from an F. The technical language of the white paper is inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of our population.
Sweeping tax reform requires the understanding and consent of the people. If the people think something they don't understand is being forced on them, and it leads to a higher cost of living, the political party that did the deed will pay at the polls. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration should know this.
While one challenge for the administration will simply be breaking VAT down for regular Bahamians to understand, there are some fundamental questions that will be asked by those who do understand. These are questions the white paper does not answer.
It remains unclear how the imposition of VAT will impact the cost of goods and services across the board.
In fact, the white paper acknowledges that the government is unable at this time to indicate comprehensively either way.
"The effect of VAT on prices will vary as between goods and services and, within the goods category, the effect will depend on the current taxation of individual goods.
The final impact on the price of goods will depend on the extent of reductions in import tariff rates flowing from accession to the WTO," according to the white paper.
The government attempts to reassure the public by saying that agricultural, food and certain other products that currently benefit from duty free status under the Tariff Act will also be exempt from VAT.
"Similarly, the services also proposed to be exempt from VAT, such as health and education services, etc., should experience no direct change in price under a VAT system," the white paper adds.
However, Bahamians will simply want to know how much more expensive items at the grocery store will be as a result of this proposed change. How much more expensive will clothing and electronics be? Is there a tax for using the already expensive services of lawyers? Will there be a 15 percent tax at restaurants on top of the 15 percent charged for gratuity?
To answer some of these questions, the government would have to announce its full range of cuts to customs duties. Other answers may be so unacceptable to the people that the government may have to alter its position.
When the official education campaign begins, business owners and professionals will have many questions for the government and its representatives, as will concerned citizens who can understand the magnitude of the change. It is necessary for the government to ensure that it works out the answers to the obvious questions Bahamians will ask before it starts the talking and education tour.
Prime Minister Perry Christie led the government's communications effort on gambling. He was not well versed on the subject. He confused the issue and said things that were contradictory. The people noticed and rejected the referendum - an initiative the governing party hoped Bahamians would support.
Government bureaucrats and the PLP should not just assume Bahamians will accept VAT because international advisory agencies said we should try it. The people have to think it is better for them and the country. They know little of the details of this move now. If this tax reform is to succeed they must know more and agree to it by the implementation date.
With a new name under its belt and diversified areas of focus including spa services and gaming, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is heading into 2012 with one simple objective, to take its reputation as one of the Caribbean's most family-friendly beach resorts to the next level, emerging as a multi-faceted destination geared to a diverse audience of world travelers and locals.
"As part of Baha Mar - one of the world's most exciting new tourism developments - the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's mission is to elevate our reputation as a leading family-friendly property, but also to diversify our approach and concentrate on promoting all that we have to offer," said Manny Corral, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "We believe our resort is poised for success in 2012 and beyond."
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's Love Your Family Program provides families the opportunity to connect while on vacation. The resort's family activities include drive-in movies throughout the week, as well as fireside storytelling and Bahamian Idol, a talent competition that brings the whole family together to cheer each other on. In 2012, the resort will continue evolving its offerings for families, including the addition of new activities for children of all ages, and themed holiday family programs.
Food and wine
The resort houses six restaurants and lounges, serving a variety of island specialties and international cuisine. The resort's award-winning food and beverage team creates an exceptional culinary experience, from casual dining at the Dolphin Grill to authentic Italian delicacies at Amici, A Trattoria, perfect for any occasion. In 2012, the resort will roll out a redesigned, interactive cooking program for guests, along with other new food and wine-focused activities.
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino has recently changed its name to recognize the world-class Crystal Palace Casino, easily accessible to guests of the resort. The casino houses over 400 slot machines and 25 table games including Blackjack, Craps, Poker and more.
Easily accessible to travelers throughout the United States and Canada, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is located 15 minutes from Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is serviced by a number of domestic and international carriers. The resort is set on a 1,000-foot stretch of Nassau's spectacular white-sand beaches, with 694 oceanview guest rooms and suites. The property boasts an incredible waterscape, including three freshwater pools, flowing waterfalls, a swim-up bar, and oversized whirlpools nestled among tropical landscaping.
Tourism continues to increase on a monthly basis at the John Watling's Distillery (JWD) as the company gradually expands.
General Manager Pepin Argamasilla of JWD praised the distillery's progress, stating, "Tourism at the estate is increasing month to month. We're seeing 250-300 visitors per day."
While the figures fall slightly short of JWD's target, Argamasilla remained optimistic, pointing to steady growth and an increase in the amount spent per visitor at the distillery.
The rum distillery, located at the renovated Buena Vista Estate, opened for public tours in April 2013.
Plans to open an authentic Bahamian restaurant at the distillery are still in the works, as the second floor of the estate and several cottages surrounding it remain undeveloped. According to Argamasilla, the distillery is still waiting for the right partner to "take Bahamian cuisine to the next level".
Although JWD's rum continues to perform well throughout The Bahamas, the company is not yet ready to export its product.
"Our message is 'The spirit of The Bahamas'. We don't want to export until we've developed in the country," said Argamasilla, listing Abaco and Eleuthera as the distillery's next areas of focus.
On the subject of value-added tax (VAT), Argamasilla commented, "It is what it is. At the end of the day, the country needs to pay its bills".
Argamasilla added that JWD, "needed to wait and see what the government does", regarding proposed excise stamps on alcohol products mentioned during Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis' recent budget contributions.
When asked what hurdles still faced JWD, Argamasilla claimed that crime remained a serious problem not only for the distillery, but also for the surrounding area. However, Argamasilla noted that the situation had improved considerably since highly publicized crimes against U.S. officials last year.
"The Royal Bahamas Police Force has done nothing but an outstanding job clearing up crime in the area," stated Argamasilla.
Argamasilla applauded the group efforts of the Historic Charles Town Association (HCTA) and the police force in promoting and protecting the area. The HCTA, which, "aims to promote the authentic and historic heart of Nassau", includes representatives from JWD, Graycliff, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and other businesses and cultural centers in the area.
"We're working closely with police," said Argamasilla. "Everybody's banding together to get rid of the crime in our area."
The inaugural International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) World Relay Championships are just a few weeks away, and security measures at and around the stadium have already increased.
Surrounding the stadium now are barricades with security guards within 20 feet of each other, stopping each car that passes. Members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) are making their presence felt, with patrol cars circling the area, as well as officers on foot patrolling the premises. As the time draws nearer for the start of the world relays, security measures will be increased even more to guarantee the safety of the foreign press, athletes and fans.
"We will of course provide full security coverage for the entire country during this period, not just the events around the stadium. We will continue to secure your premises while you are away from home, as well as guarding you on your commute to and from the stadium. There are going to be lots of special patrols around the stadiums, in your neighborhoods and on the highways. There will be volumes of police officers saturating the streets to ensure that all avenues leading into the stadium are under police control," said Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Bethel.
"These officers are there to identify and neutralize any potential problem immediately before it gets to the stadium. Once you get to the stadium we will mount checkpoints, police will be checking everyone at these points to ensure that no one brings in any types of offensive weapons that can be used to harm persons. These checkpoints will be manned by both uniformed and plain clothes officers. We are going to take all precautions to make sure that everyone in the stadium has been sterilized."
One of the major goals of the police and defense force units, as well as the Local Organizing Committee of the world relays (LOC), is to ensure that The Bahamas can host an event of this magnitude without any incidents occurring.
"I want the Bahamian people to know that no one who has a record, or is known by the police for various reasons, will be allowed in the stadium regardless if they have a ticket or not; those on ankle monitoring systems or those with any propensity to do crime will not be allowed near the stadium," said Bethel.
"In walking about the stadium you will see and feel the security we have put in place. This represents months and months of planning since our first work with the IAAF team in July of last year to plan the fencing around the stadium to secure it in sectors. We had some issues during CARIFTA last year, in terms of people walking about and going into areas that they should not have gone," said Senior Director of Security of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) James Carey.
Carey was also the head of security for the CARIFTA Games last year. He was the one who put together the plans concerning how the security team would patrol and handle managing the grounds of
"The IAAF has certain standards and we are mandated to comply with those standards and put in place security in accordance with their standards," he said.
The security plans of the LOC not only had to go through the IAAF, but also through delegates from the various countries who are participating to ensure the safety of their people. Bethel and Carey have been in contact with many of the visiting countries crime leaders, going over their plans for securing the stadium as well as the security measures that will be taken around the rest of the country.
"The job of making sure that everything goes smoothly with the event is not only the job of the police force, but it is the job of every Bahamian to ensure that everything goes well. Events like this can do so much for the economy, and I am hustling hard to try and bring an event of this magnitude to the country every quarter. Every hotel is booked, which means taxis will make money, restaurants will be filled and shops will be making money, so I know that we will not let one person get in the way of what we have going on here," said Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson.
"It is up to us to determine the kind of country that we want to live in, the economy is flat and we are looking for ways to bring in revenue, to get new money into the country, so we are trying fresh ideas and bringing new energy to the country trying to make things better for the Bahamian people. I know that my people will not let one joker spoil things for us," he said.
The high school qualifiers today will serve as a test of the security procedures that will be in effect May 24-25.
Luciano's of Chicago has started its preparations for Hands for Hunger's one-of-a-kind culinary experience and most anticipated charity event in The Bahamas - Paradise Plates, a culinary celebration benefiting the fight against hunger in the Bahamian community.
As a culinary partner of the event, Luciano's is excited to once again join this year's Paradise Plates marking its fifth year of participation in the lively evening that features gourmet cuisine from top local chefs and restaurants, fine wine, beer and cocktail tastings. Additional highlights of the evening include exciting silent auctions, raffles and live musical entertainment, all contributing to a great cause.
"Paradise Plates has become one of our favorite annual traditions since its inception in 2009," said Sue Lawrence, director of special events at Luciano's of Chicago. "It's an event we particularly look forward to as it's all for a great community cause, as well as being an enjoyable event that showcases culinary art at its best."
At last year's event, Luciano's of Chicago prepared a number of unforgettable and delectable dishes which included variations on arancine (traditional Italian deep-fried stuffed risotto rice balls), as well as variations on meatballs, including Luciano's signature Beef and Pork Meatball, with a choice of Penne or Rigatoni Pasta with Pomodoro Sauce and much more.
"Over the years, Paradise Plates has become an annual social highlight in Nassau. This year we expect to offer guests and supporters a sensational Luciano's of Chicago experience with the culinary options being prepared for the event," continued Lawrence.
The restaurant's culinary team will prepare a number of menu selections which will be featured at Paradise Plates on Saturday, September 28, in the Crown Ballroom, Atlantis.
To learn more about Luciano's of Chicago, please visit the restaurant's website at http://www.lucianosnassau.com or visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LucianosNassau.
With preparations for this year's Bahamas Speed Week revving up, tentative plans are being made to kick future events into top gear.
Jimmie Lowe, the event's president, said organizers will soon begin talks with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism to mull over the possibility of building a race track for drivers arriving from all over the world - a venture that could mean a boom for the economy.
"The intent is to create tourism," he told Guardian Business. "This is what we envision going forward, but nothing is set in stone. If it did happen, it would facilitate a larger clientele coming, more room nights for Bahamian hotels and the economic impact could be far reaching."
Lowe and his team are currently drafting a proposal to present to the government.
Details such as funding, location and the scope of the project are still in the development phase.
"This is part of our wish list," he added. "It is something we are hoping to have, and it all depends on approvals."
Meanwhile, Bahamas Speed Week, which will run from November 30 until December 4, has recently signed Pictet Bank as an official sponsor of the gala banquet and Auction of Promises to benefit four Bahamian charities.
With a presence in 19 countries, Pictet Bank is one of the world's leading international private financial institutions, and according to Lowe, it elevates Bahamas Speed Week into a new echelon of prestige and opens the door to an elite mix of guests.
"Obviously with having them involved and stepping up to the plate, it creates an opportunity that's huge for everyone," Lowe added.
"It's huge for the event, it's huge for the charities, - by them stepping up, it takes a lot of burden off the organizers."
Pictet Bank joins an impressive list of sponsors, such as Carlo Milano, Graycliff and Bahamas Ferries.
The event is already expected to attract $100 million in classic race cars and should provide a significant tourism boom for Nassau. The goal, Lowe said, is to fill between 4,000 and 5,000 hotel rooms as a direct result of Bahamas Speed Week, not to mention the economic spill off for retailers and restaurants.
Sir Stirling Moss, the British racecar driver who competed from 1948 to 1962 and won 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grand Prixs, will serve as the patron fo the event. He attended the original Bahamas Speed Week more than 50 years ago.
Running from 1954 to 1966, the original, historic event in Nassau featured many of the great racing drivers and best automobiles of the period.
In this year's revival, a series of events are expected to take place throughout Bahamas Speed Week - including a sprint at Arawak Cay, a hill climb at Fort Charlotte and a star-studded exhibition for the vintage vehicles.
But for Earle Bethell, the President of the Cancer Society, the gala banquet and Auction of Promises will be the marquee event.
"Because of the prevalence of cancer in this country, we are most thankful for these sponsors to come forward," he said.
"We [The Cancer Society] just added another six branches through the Family Islands and we're putting in education offices, trying to reach out to the Family Islands. In Nassau, the Cancer Center is full and we have a waiting list.
"We need every penny we can get - these are very trying times."
Ranfurly Home for Children, Teen Challenge and the AIDS Foundation are the other charities that will benefit from the Auction of Promises.
In a teaser to Guardian Business, Lowe hinted that some of the big-ticket prizes are already on the books, such as a four-day, three-night stay in Exuma valued at $30,000 and a private charter on a high-end fishing boat.
In addition to the money raised for charity, Bethell, who is also the Director of Marketing for Baha Mar, said Bahamas Speed Week, and the possible expansion to include a racetrack, will be incredibly important for all Bahamians.
"With the amount of persons coming in, of course it will have an impact," he said.
"They are resurrecting it for the first time, in a long time. That means a lot more heads for hotel rooms."
Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian last night blamed a "flawed process" and the politicization of the referendum for the crushing defeat of the Vote Yes campaign in yesterday's historic poll, adding that thousands of jobs are now in limbo.
"If you factor in what we have seen so far, low voter turnout and the support of the no vote, it clearly shows that... Bahamians are probably disgusted with the process," Bastian said to The Nassau Guardian last night at Foxies Restaurant and Bar after it became clear that Bahamians overwhelmingly voted against the regularization of web shops and a national lottery.
"We were not happy with the process for obvious reasons but we couldn't come out and say because we can't bash our own campaign. We were always at a disadvantage because if you notice we ran a clean campaign. We never spoke out and bashed anyone. The church was our biggest opponent and I would never say anything about a man of God regardless of how I may feel internally."
Supporters of the Vote Yes campaign hosted a viewing party last night at Foxies. Supporters shut down the party shortly before 8 p.m. when it became clear that they lost the race.
Bastian said he's not sure what will happen today.
"We have not made a decision on that," he said when asked if web shops will open.
"We will respect the decision of the Government of The Bahamas. At the end of the day, I'm worried about the jobs. The staff do not know what to expect [in the coming days]. They may work [today] but they don't know if they are going to be employed Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. So they don't know how they are going to meet their financial obligations."
Prime Minister Perry Christie said previously that if there is a no vote, police will shut down web shops.
Island Luck employs just under 500 people. But it has been reported that more than 3,000 people are employed directly and indirectly through web shops.
Bastian said politics also played a part in the outcome.
"It's unfortunate when politicians play politics for political gain and use that influence to interfere with the minds of Bahamians," he said when asked about former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's endorsement of the no vote.
"And at the end of the day, only Bahamians lose. I'm hoping one day Bahamians can get out of the political fantasy and start making decisions for themselves."
As for his future, Bastian said he will survive even if he is called on to shut down his web shops.
"My business is diverse. There are two sides. There's the physical web shop side and the Internet side. So how it affects it, it all depends on whatever the government says. But I'm not just in the numbers business."
The Island Luck CEO added that he is about to venture into the construction industry. He expects to employ nearly 180 people in March. However, Bastian said many of his current employees will not qualify for those types of jobs.
Some Vote Yes supporters cried in the streets last night while others begged the web shop owner to find a way to keep his doors open.
Arlington Rolle, a Vote Yes supporter, said it seems as if the Bahamian people don't want to move forward.
"I hope that we will have another chance to vote and I hope that they vote yes the next go around," he said.
"I want the Bahamian people to move forward. I don't gamble. I wanted them to win because I saw the benefits. I saw where Bahamian people could achieve something. The web shops help the country. So it upsets me to know that the Bahamian people did not stick to their word."
Another Vote Yes supporter, who identified herself only as Marge, said the results left her depressed.
"I am hurt that it's a no vote," she said. "I'm hurt for the girls who will lose their jobs."
She hoped the web shops would find a way to remain.
"I hope they go underground and open up," she said.
"That helps me to pay my bills. If I win, I give the landlord something. I give Freeport Power something. The clothes store gets something and the hair dresser gets something. But if I can't play in The Bahamas, I'll go to the United States. I take my money in the United States and I spend it there. But if I could gamble home I could spend my money and it will spread around."