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BAHAMAS

bcde | Feb 3, 2004 05:10 AM

Could Nassau become a little mixture of Chicago and Las Vegas?

The Bahamas – more and more well known as a country of crime, corruption and drug trafficking – could attract more tourists in the future. A consortium is attempting to strike a $1 billion investment agreement with the government. It is understood that Dikron Izmirlian, a Swiss-Armenian billionaire wants similar concessions to those obtained by South African Sol Kerzner for his Paradise Island developments.

The Izmirlian group is set to acquire the government owned Radisson at Cable Beach and wants to purchase also the Nassau Beach Hotel and Wyndham Resort from their current owner Phillip Ruffin, who has also a big name in gaming circles in Las Vegas. Ruffin is aware that both hotels continues to face crushing competition from the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Casino, owned by hotel mogul, Sol Kerzner. Wyndham is holding the casino licence. This means the ground is already paved for legalised gambling. There are plans to offer more Las Vegas styled entertainment. Another key factor is re-routing the road through the destination to free up some 350 acres on the southern side for development into properties such as timeshares and condos.

It is also reported that Cable Beach business has been "horrible" over the last couple years. There is still the negative aspect that travelers arriving by air claim already that they do not get value for their money. This could mean there is hardly a chance to increase the room rates.

Bahamas Consult reminds that cruise ship passengers find the downton area being dirty and a plan not only for downtown improvements would be necessary. The center of Nassau needs a urgent master plan to improve the hotel economy. Overnight visitors and hotel guests claim the strange contrast between rich and poor neighborhoods in Nassau. There are fresh painted government buildings in pink color and next to them broken down properties, fly-blown restaurants and paint-peeling shops with bars on windows. In no other Caribbean tourist destination you see so many signs of poverty. One even do not have to pass the location of the 5 star Gray Cliff Hotel at Blue Hill Road or the Police Headquarters at East Street you find wide spread slums as you hardly see in other ports.

Outside of Atlantis, and the cruise ships, the tourism product is all but dead. The streets of Nassau tend to empty out rather early in the evening and visitors should exercise caution especially in the slums away from the port. If you wish to visit a place in the center of Nassau at night, it is best to take a taxi to its door. Women should avoid venturing out alone there after dark.

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