‘‘In general, you would assume that a project of that size is generating its own demand and the idea would probably also be with Chinese money comes an influx of Chinese travelers,’’ said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of hospitality industry research firm STR. ‘‘The Chinese would argue that we can maybe attract a clientele that has not been with you before.’’
When completed, the complex is set to boast brands such as the Grand Hyatt, Rosewood and Mondrian, and 313 $1-million condos being marketed to the international elite.
Business leaders have openly questioned the investment as Baha Mar rises just blocks from storefronts left empty during the latest downturn. The Wyndham hotel was closed for all of September and most of October because of low occupancy levels, and on Feb. 8 announced the need for ‘‘substantial cutbacks,’’ including layoffs.
‘‘In a vibrant economy, we wouldn’t be having any concerns. The reason it comes into question is whether it’s right at this time,’’ said Winston Rolle, CEO of the Bahamas’ Chamber of Commerce.
The project had, in fact, been conceived in a different moment, more than six years ago, when the U.S. housing boom and global tourism seemed unstoppable.
One of the original developers, Caesar’s Entertainment Corp., formerly Harrah’s Entertainment, backed out of the project in 2008, and Chinese financiers stepped in after reaching a deal with project CEO Sarkis Izmirlian. The agreement brought in a state-owned Chinese construction company to build the resort.
‘‘This project is essential to developing business in the Caribbean and into the U.S.,’’ said Tiger Wu, vice president of the construction company, to Bahamian media. ‘‘It’s only the beginning.’’
All evidence indicates the Chinese are charging forward. They've made their $3.5 billion gamble in the Bahamas. Elsewhere, they've promised tens of billions of dollars for everything from dams to railroads. Guyana has hired the state-owned Shanghai Construction Group to build a 197-room Marriott Hotel on the southern edge of the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, traditional investors in the U.S. and Europe have been left on the sidelines. It’s China’s game now. And the rest of the world is waiting to see how the big gambles pay off.
Associated Press writers Jeff Todd in Nassau, Bahamas; Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela; Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ This story is part of ‘‘China’s Reach,’’ a project tracking China’s influence on its trading partners over three decades and exploring how that is changing business, politics and daily life. Keep up with AP’s reporting on China’s Reach, and join the conversation about it, using the hashtag (hash)APChinaReach on Twitter.