What’s New in the Bahamas? 3 Reasons to Plan a Trip Right Now

bahamas

About 3,200 sun-kissed islands and cays scatter over 500 miles of Atlantic Ocean in the Bahamas, where tourism, the nation’s No. 1 industry, centers mostly on the islands of New Providence, Paradise, and Grand Bahama.

Meeting planners drawn to more than 50 resorts suitable for groups of every size and purpose, the tropical sunshine and beaches, and the proximity of a foreign but English-speaking destination also appreciate the nation’s tax exemption status. Since 2006, U.S. taxpayers who attend business meetings, conventions, and seminars in the Bahamas can write off the expense. Plus, U.S. dollars are on par and accepted interchangeably with Bahamian dollars.

So, beyond the basics of sun, sea, ease, and value, why go now? Here are three timely reasons to take your group to the Bahamas this year.

  1. Even easier access.

Less than a 40-minute flight from Miami, Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport already received direct flights from most U.S. gateways and many Canadianairport ones. But in late June, JetBlue added daily nonstop service from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Then, in early December, United Airlines increased service to Nassau from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. United’s new nonstop, round-trip flights operate three days a week and will run daily from March 5 to May 5 and June 4 to August 17.

These added flights could be just the beginning when it comes to increased airlift to Nassau, in part thanks to the highly anticipated $3.5 billion Baha Mar Resort development, which will add another 2,200 hotel rooms and a host of major leisure attractions to New Providence this spring.

In addition, on November 1, Sunwing Airlines launched direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary to Freeport’s Grand Bahama International Airport. These weekly flights give western Canada a much faster and easier way to reach Grand Bahama Island than ever before.

  1. New activities and attractions.

With a grand opening targeted for May, Baha Mar Resort promises to make a splash heard ’round the world as it rolls out its attractions. In addition to the Meliá propertyunder refurbishment next door, the 1,000-acre resort will have four new-built hotels: a Rosewood, an SLS LUX, a Grand Hyatt, and the centerpiece Baha Mar Casino & BREEFNuttall-Garden-1Hotel. Plans include a 100,000-square-foot casino; a 2,000-seat performing arts center; a state-of-art convention center; more than 40 restaurants, nightclubs, and bars; two spas; multiple pool complexes; and an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course.BREEFNuttall-Garden-2

The Bahamas officially unveiled the world’s newest and largest undersea sculpture garden in late December. Located just off Bahamas Clifton Heritage National Park on New Providence, the BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Garden showcases stunning works of art, including Bahamian Ocean Atlas—an 18-foot-tall, 60-ton sculpture by Jason DeCaires Taylor. The monuments’ sustainable, PH-neutral materials were chosen to attract coral polyps, which will eventually transform the installation into a living reef. This may be the only year visiting divers and snorkelers can see the figures largely unadorned.

  1. New options for meetings and incentives.

On December 1, 2013, Meliá Hotels International took over the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino, renamed it Meliá Nassau Beach Resort, and began upgrading and adapting the property to Meliá standards. Upon completion of the renovations this spring, and concurrent with the opening of the neighboring Baha Mar Resort, the 694- room all-inclusive will be renamed Meliá at Baha Mar. Highlights include three updated pool areas, new restaurant concepts, enhanced lobby spaces, and 25,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

Last March, the 3,414-room Atlantis, Paradise Island completed an $8 million upgrade to its Coral and Royal Towers—and added a new outdoor event space for good measure. Called Ocean’s Edge at The Cove, the new venue hosts up to 200 guests on its event lawn, patio, and beachside deck. Ocean’s Edge brings yet another option to the mega resort’s half million square feet for groups, including 200,000 square feet of flexible conference rooms.

But the biggest news came last fall as Atlantis left Kerzner International Resorts and joined Marriott International’s Autograph Collection—a particular boon for the 45 million members of Marriott’s loyalty program. A new management company, Brookfield Hospitality, stepped in but retained the staff, ensuring that guests have every advantage of interacting with the people whose expertise built the property’s reputation for excellence.

Grand Bahama’s latest all-inclusive, Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort & Casino, opened on the white sands of Lucayan Beach February 1, 2014. It replaced Our Lucaya Reef Village, formerly the Sheraton Our Lucaya. Decidedly family friendly, the newly renovated property features 492 guest rooms and suites, 11 bars and restaurants, a kids’ club, splash park, teen lounge, casino, spa, and free greens fees at a nearby Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course. The prime location places guests opposite Port Lucaya Marketplace—and adjacent to the Grand Lucayan Convention Centre.

For more information, go to www.bahamas.com.

Annette Burden

Annette Burden

Annette Burden has written and edited for Elite Meetings International since 2007. In addition to writing on travel for other publications, she founded and edited Meeting Traveler, Resorts & Great Hotels, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazines.

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