Adequate funding now in place for airport, says DPM; highlights eight projects govt has approved
BY: Chester Robards
The government has approved more than $1 billion worth of projects for Exuma and its cays, with one project alone worth $550 million, Deputy Prime Minister, Member of Parliament for the Exumas and Ragged Island and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper said yesterday, adding that the Exumas are on track to meet or surpass the record number of visitors it had in 2019.
Cooper, who was the keynote speaker at the Exuma Business Outlook, mentioned at least eight projects that the government has approved, adding that those are only the developments he is comfortable speaking about at this time.
While 70,000 people visited the Exumas in 2019, Cooper explained that at the end of August this year more than 57,000 people had visited the Exumas.
“Which is roughly 22 percent more than 2019 levels, which was a record-setting year,” he said.
“Exuma is truly a success story in the business of tourism. I will tell you that we can fill twice the number of hotel rooms that we have on the island, given the trends and leads we see on Bahamas.com and our various booking platforms.
“I want to repeat my call for hoteliers to build more rooms. I repeat my call to you to continue to open your homes and continue to build more vacation rentals.”
Many of the projects the government has approved for the Exumas are bringing new rooms to those islands.
The $1.2 billion in projects mentioned by Cooper include several boutique resort properties on populated islands in the Exumas, as well as the development of some private islands.
“These are projects that have been fully vetted by the Bahamas Investment Authority and have proof of financing,” he said.
Cooper explained that one development on an Exuma cay worth $150 million will include a resort, marina, airport and golf course; while $11 million is being injected into a high-end, environmentally sustainable, private island boutique resort on Little Fowl Cay.
Cooper explained that the government has approved the acquisition of Roker Point Estates, a stalled 58-acre resort and marina development.
“That project will consist of at least 50 residences and 65 boat slips adjacent to the residences,” he said.
“Phase one of the project is expected to begin early next year and will take four years to complete.
“Overall, that will mean an investment of more than $260 million.”
He also explained that an investor will acquire the remainder of the leasehold interest in 155 acres on Little Sampson Cay and three acres on Middle Sampson Cay where they will, in their first phase of construction, renovate all of the existing structures and build a pool, tennis courts, tiki bar, gym and spa.
Cooper said phase two of the $30 million project will include 30 to 40 new guest bungalows, another restaurant and a new beach bar.
He said there will be a resort and marina development on Big Sampson Cay worth $150 million, a $170 million development on Hog Cay that will include a hotel, estate lots, airport, marina, golf course and spa; and a $550 million development on Cave Cay that will feature a luxury mixed-use hotel resort, residences, and marina.
On the investment front, he added: “On Elizabeth Island, an investor is developing a unique, zero carbon, integrated residence and yacht resort community. On a 35-acre tract, they will construct 28 detached, ultra-low-impact, solar-powered residences ranging from three to six bedrooms. This represents a $56 million investment.
“We have also approved a $3 million development project for a boutique resort on Staniel Cay.
“And those are the new projects I can comfortably speak to. There is even more in store for Exuma.”
Cooper said work will restart on the new Exuma Airport this month, as the government acquires funding through a public/private partnership.
He explained that the work was delayed because his government met the project without adequate funding and with the contractor being owed $10 million.
“We now have adequate funding in place,” said Cooper.
“As you heard the prime minister say in his national address, work resumes on the Exuma International Airport this month. And we are in the final stages of organizing funding from a public/private partnership.”
He said the new world-class airport will transform Exuma into a hub for the central and southern Bahamas and this country’s nearest Caribbean neighbors.