Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

A building boom, a spike in visitors and the destination's very first winery mark a busy season of developments in Nassau and Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Tourism officials point to a concerted effort to improve the downtown area. Long-term plans recently announced by the Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) include revising the traffic flow patterns into downtown, the removal of taxis from the cruise terminal at Prince George Wharf to a nearby holding area at Kelly's Dock and a park-and-ride shuttle service on electrically-powered buses to transport those who do business in the area.

The DNP is a public-private partnership launched 10 years ago and has since created Pompey Square, a tourist site with restaurants and shops; improved the landscaping at Rawson Square and Parliament Square; added benches throughout the tourist areas; and upgraded the street lighting.

The anchor of the plan is The Pointe project, an oceanfront site that will include a resort, residences, a marina, shops and restaurants, said Fred Lounsberry, CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.

Already built is an 800-space parking garage that is helping to alleviate traffic congestion along West Bay Street where the Straw Market and other popular tourist sites are located.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville brand will debut in mid-2019 with the phased opening of Margaritaville at The Pointe, a $250 million development that will include a 150-room resort and 150 oceanfront residences, a 45-slip marina, a private beach, the LandShark water park, spa, food and beverage venues, a movie theater, bowling alley and kids' club.

"It's an exciting development," Lounsberry said. "The Pointe will connect by boardwalk to the nearby British Colonial Hilton and Junkanoo Beach on the west and to the bridge leading to Paradise Island in the other direction."

The massive Baha Mar complex, meanwhile, is soon to open its third hotel: The 200-room Rosewood Baha Mar will begin accepting guests as of June 1, according to Lounsberry. It will join the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and the SLS Baha Mar.

A new attraction for tourists is Bahamas Barrels, a winery housed in a converted convent on West Hill Street across from the Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant, which owns the winery.

Although the Bahamas is not a wine producer, Bahamas Barrels bottles wines blended from grapes from several countries and offers tours, seminars and wine-blending classes.

Over on Paradise Island, the Riu Palace, which recently completed a four-month renovation, has converted to an adults-only resort. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has hung its management shingle at The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Hotel, which was formerly One&Only Ocean Club. And Atlantis has redone The Coral (formerly the Coral Tower) and last month opened Fish, a fine-dining restaurant at the Cove.

To bring tour operators and travel advisers in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Europe up to speed, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board is hosting its International Travel Partners Conference June 11 through 15. Lounsberry said the event would include updates on new properties, tours, site inspections and leisure time to explore food tours, golf and snorkeling.

As a destination, the Bahamas is seeing increased air arrivals for the first four months of 2018 and strong summer bookings as well, according to Lounsberry.

"We have great industry partners, which benefit not only Nassau and Paradise Island, but also the Out Islands as well," he said. "All of these new developments are driving business for all of us."

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