Excerpt from Business Bites first published in The Tribune June 5, 2018
The Rosewood opening ceremony last week gave a new touch to the vast Baha Mar complex. The event itself set a special standard. Unlike the jolly mob scenes that announced Hyatt and SLS, only a dignified group of local leaders were seated for addresses by the PM and dignitaries, then were offered non-stop champagne and led through the public rooms. The most popular gathering spots became the wood-paneled bar and adjacent lounge, which gave elbow-room to enjoy classic caviar, black, fine-egged—and plentiful.
With Rosewood, the last of the three hotels, already accepting guests, the resort’s grand three-in-one concept becomes clear: the giant Hyatt will appeal to solid middle-budget American family vacationers, with next-door SLS using Vegas and Miami glitz to attract younger swingers, while Rosewood will stay a bit aloof (and pricey) to draw lovers of sophisticated elegance like New York’s Carlyle and the Crillon in Paris. All will be served by a medley of exceptional restaurants, an all-games casino, spa, golf course, convention center —and here in Nassau don’t forget the beach! There’s even an art gallery, with working studio for anyone to try budding artistic ambitions.
The imperturbable Baha Mar President Graeme Davis and his Bahamian deputy Sandy Sands have their hands full juggling all these balls: three hotels and many other ventures, each with its own brand and profit target, needing to earn while leaving enough to pay the Hong Kong owner Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) a return on its $4 billion investment. Somewhere deep out of sight a regiment of computers must be handling the endless cash flow from over two thousand guests and sorting it out to even more staff and innumerable suppliers, always deducting the percentages due to the house. Mr. Davis moves like a decisive diplomat, resolving daily crises without ruffling a hair.
Possibly he never met the sharp-eyed reporter whom Bloomberg News sent down to cover the scene just two weeks before the Rosewood launch. While observing that the enterprise is “booming”, with $21 drinks priced at a level for “plenty of revenue to be made”, she wrote a few waspish comments that “It looks like heaven. It can sound like hell. . .a cacophony of hospitality”. And “the only unifying thread is Instagram!” – as guests keep themselves busy snapping selfies. “Without the background noise, they’ll look vivid and serene.”
Probably such minor snipes don’t bother Mr. Davis, as Baha Mar is well on the path from a conflicted history to future success. Few indeed are the resort projects that were conceived, planned and 90%-built by one owner, went bankrupt, and soon started operating under a new owner, with one political party backing the shift while the other opposed it. Now the opposition is in control, and Tourism Minister D’Aguilar is nimbly adjusting his allegiances, like any sensible politician.
Fortunately, those colorful past disputes can be swept under the rug. The saving grace for Baha Mar is the quality of its staff. I have met quite a few of them by now, all immaculately uniformed, efficient, friendly and helpful, cheerfully performing a wide variety of tasks. Of course, some foreign training was required, particularly for the culinary specialties, but that would have failed without the bed-rock of Bahamians’ individual charm and character.
When Henry Cheng, principal of family-owned CTFE, next visits Nassau, I hope he can tell me how content he is with his Bahamian investment.
Mr. Coulson has had a long career in law, investment banking and private banking in New York, London, and Nassau, and now serves as director of several financial concerns and as a corporate financial consultant. He has recently released his autobiography, A Corkscrew Life: Adventures of a Travelling Financier.