SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — China has agreed to finance and build a stalled mega-resort in the Bahamas, where the tourism economy has been battered by slashed occupancy rates and reduced foreign investment during the global downturn.
The deal with Chinese investors has given new life to the Baha Mar project, an ambitious complex that was put on hold more than two years ago when U.S. casino operator Harrah's Entertainment Inc. pulled out because the project took too long to organize.
Developer Baha Mar Resorts Ltd. announced July 27 that China's economic planning agency has given its final approval for the development of the sprawling resort on 1,000 acres along Nassau's postcard-perfect Cable Beach.
The Baha Mar deal has been under negotiation with Chinese investors since April 2008. Earlier this year, a Chinese bank arranged $2.5 billion in financing, and Beijing's state-owned construction corporation signed on to build the project, which would include six hotels with nearly 3,500 rooms and condos.
Developers say the only remaining authorization would be from the government of the Bahamas, where political and tourism leaders have voiced enthusiasm.
The developer asserts that Baha Mar will result in 11,000 jobs for islanders, including some 6,000 permanent positions.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham could not immediately be reached in the Bahamas, where reduced tourism and foreign investment are contracting living standards in the island chain of roughly 310,000 inhabitants.
In a brief statement, the islands' Cabinet office said the Chinese authorization for the project will be made formal Aug. 18.
Beyond the six hotels, blueprints for the sprawling complex include a convention center, golf course, retail shops and what developers tout as the largest casino in the Caribbean.
The Baha Mar resort would compete with Atlantis, an established mega-resort that covers three-quarters of Paradise Island, an 800-acre island just off Nassau, the Bahamian capital.