The Baha Mar megaresort last week pushed back its opening for at least another four months, indicating continuing challenges in building out what is said to be the most expensive development in the history of the Bahamas
The 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 300-room SLS Lux at Baha Mar and the 200-room Rosewood at Baha Mar have all pushed back accepting room reservations until at least Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, according to their websites.
And while the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar noted that it is "accepting reservations from June 16," a search of its online calendar showed availability beginning Oct. 1. The project's fifth hotel and lone pre-existing property, the Melia Nassau Beach, remains open as it completes its renovations and conversion to the Melia at Baha Mar. That conversion is expected to be completed early next year.
The developers of the $3.5 billion complex haven't specified what's behind the most recent delay. Baha Mar had previously announced a May 1 grand opening event.
A Baha Mar spokeswoman said, "The hotel is not delayed indefinitely. We are just still in discussions with our contractor, so we have not announced an exact grand opening date." She declined to comment further.
Hyatt, Rosewood and SLS parent SBE Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment.
The delays have posed challenges for both prospective travelers and intermediaries, including both offline and online travel agencies. Some travelers took to TripAdvisor to voice frustration over what they say was a lack of communication from the resort.
Of the dozen comments on TripAdvisor's Baha Mar page as of last Thursday, two of the reviewers praised the resort operator for arranging stays at nearby Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, while another nine blasted Baha Mar's customer service efforts for either not informing them that the reservations they had made couldn't be honored or not being compensated for change fees necessitated by the delays.
One reviewer stated that Expedia had been "very cooperative" working with him to rebook accommodations at Atlantis.
Expedia spokeswoman Katie Brennan said, "Expedia and Travelocity are working closely with representatives from Baha Mar to contact and compensate the affected travelers who booked via our sites."
Orbitz and Priceline representatives declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Classic Vacations President David Hu said that as of last week, his company had not received any written confirmation of an opening date from Baha Mar, and he said some clients had booked stays starting in June. He added that Classic Vacations had not finalized its policy but would try to work with the hoteliers to ensure that the extra client costs associated with either rebooking at alternate properties or changing travel plans altogether would be either minimized or covered by the agency or hotel in question. He said that the company would possibly arrange a "make good" concession to get those guests to visit Baha Mar once it opens.
"Many consumers don't realize that they need a travel adviser until situations like this arise," Hu said. "With an OTA or having booked direct, I'm pretty sure the outcome would not be as positive."
The most recent delay is at least the fourth for a project that broke ground in Nassau's Cable Beach area in February 2011. The resort, backed by China's state-run Export-Import Bank and constructed by thousands of Chinese workers employed by China State Construction Engineering Corp., had originally been scheduled to open to the public by the end of 2014.
Last summer, Baha Mar pushed the opening back to this spring, and after missing a March 27 deadline, the developers blamed construction issues, noting in a late March statement that "The contractor has not completed the work with an attention to detail consistent with Baha Mar standards of excellence."
Scott Smith, Atlanta-based senior vice president at PKF Consulting, said last week, "There hasn't been anything of this magnitude that's been delayed for this long." Still, he noted that the impact of the delay would be far worse if it had happened in late fall, closer to Caribbean high season.
"I've said before that they ought to just delay the opening until hurricane season is over," Smith said. "Whether or not it was intentional, they're doing that."