There lots of hard hats at the Baha Mar complex of luxury hotels – the $3.5 billion project that will revolutionise the year-round tourism offering of The Bahamas, says the gal. Here is Andrew Tilley, in his office of the only one of the five properties that is opening, and running choc-full at the moment. He is GM of the 694-room Meliá Nassau Beach Resort, built yonks ago on, well, Nassau Beach. It was variously managed by Renaissance and Radisson and Sheraton (poor thing, it must be rather like Elizabeth Taylor, who am I married to right now?) As you drive along the island’s south coast, there it stands, an enormous S-shaped building. By the way, be careful as you drive: The Bahamas drive on the left, with left-hand-drive cars.
Meliá has it marvellously under control. Andrew Tilley arrived in December 2013 to find a really busy hotel, and it has stayed that way ever since. I loved room 815, with a balcony big enough for a small tree, a bright big plant, a table and two chairs, and me having breakfast, looking down and over at the view below. The pool complex is enormous and some families spend all day out there, breaking off from time to time to take the Number 10 shuttle bus into downtown Nassau, 15 minutes away. When all the renovations are finished, Meliá will become all-inclusive, adult-centric but family-friendly at the same time. When everything is finished here, another four hotels, all new-builds, will be up and running too.
As well as SLS LUX, there will be Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Rosewood Baha Mar and the Baha Mar Casino Hotel, a 1,000-roomer: Grand Hyatt, Rosewood and SLS will have, between them, 284 residences, to sell and put into the letting pool – prices for these range from one million (US) up to $12 million and someone has brought two adjacent residences, I reckon $7 million each, at Rosewood. All five hotels will share the Jack Nicklaus golf course, and the casino, and 36 restaurants around the complex, and an ESPA-themed spa with 24 treatment rooms, including two doubles, all of them with views out over the ocean (this is not really wellness but lifestyle, says the Italian spa director, Laura Vallati, herself a kundalini yoga enthusiast).
And of course there is the beach, a full 3,000 feet of white sand shared among all the resorts. There are also series of outdoor pools, and lots of grass areas, with local trees like Caribbean pine and silk cotton. I meet the Baha Mar environmentalist, DeShawn McGregor, who is on the Governor General’s Youth Award Programme. They do lots of good things for Bahamas youth, here at this luxury resorts complex – its Leadership Development Institute, funded by Baha Mar, schools unemployed 16-24 year olds for 12 weeks in character development followed by four weeks’ skills training, and they get proper graduation diplomas and, invariably, jobs.