October 2, 2013 | 6:30 am | Print
Above: the Bimini SuperFast (All photos by CJ)
By Alexander Britell
BIMINI — When it launched in July, Genting’s new Bimini SuperFast cruise ship was a bit of a mystery – what would it mean for the economy of Bimini? What kind of response would it get from travelers in Miami? In the two months since launching, it’s brought more than 25,000 tourists to the Bahamas’ westernmost island, and early signs seem to indicate a growing impact on the local economy in Bimini. To put that number in perspective, Bimini has generally averaged about 50,000 tourists annually. To learn more about the ship and Resorts World’s hotel plans, Caribbean Journal talked to Dana Leibovitz, CEO of Resorts World Bimini.
How is the project going so far?
We’re very happy. We’re very happy with the way it’s moving along, and the success of the SuperFast cruise ship coming over, it’s been great in Miami. Since we started July 20, we’ve carried more than 25,000 people to Bimini so far, and it’s gaining popularity as people begin to know more and more about it. And we expect during tourist season in South Florida we’ll have even greater pickup of people coming over. So overall we’re very, very happy with the way it’s going.
Above: the new Bimini Tram
What’s the next step for Resorts World in Bimini?
There are two. One is the jetty for the SuperFast, which will allow people to spend more time on the island, which is the one thing people want more of. They really enjoy Bimini and they enjoy their time here, and they’re looking for more time. Because we have to tender, it makes it more difficult right now. Secondly, it’s the hotel, which will come on line in December. It’s a 350-room hotel, and included in the 350 rooms are 25 garden villa suites. That’ll be on line at the end of December.
What’s the timeline for the jetty?
We’re hoping for the end of October, early November.
What kind of impact has the property had on the local economy since the launch?
Overall, it’s been very, very positive. We take anywhere from 100 to 150 people into Alice Town every day that arrive on the cruise ship. We have trams that are running back and forth, and it’s been hugely popular for the locals and business as a whole in Bimini is increasing. There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there, more taxi services, more golf cart rental services and things like that. Every time I drive into town, every couple of weeks, another shop pops up here, another thing pops up there.
Above: a seaplane near the resort
Who are the visitors you’re seeing — are they more locals from South Florida or tourists that are visiting South Florida?
For the most part, it’s South Floridians. Obviously we expect that to change, and we’re going to target tourism from mid-November, when the tourist season really picks up in South Florida. Again, we’re looking at it as not necessarily taking tourism away from South Florida, but giving the tourists the option of something else to do while they’re [in Florida].
How do you see Bimini as a destination — do you see it developing beyond South Florida into an international brand?
Obviously that’s our goal. That’s what we believe is going to happen. Bimini has such a rich history, and it’s so magical. It’s just always been very difficult for people to get there and see the island. I walk around South Florida, and I talk to people, and people say. “Bimini? I’ve hard of it, but I have never been there — it’s difficult to get there.” Well, we’re making it easier for people to get there, and that’s been fantastic. And as that moves on, we expect the business to move on.