The Bahamas evokes images of bright blue water, miles of beaches and mega resorts. Three months ago, I would have described it as a cruise ship destination and a country constructed around tourism (the industry makes up more than 60 percent of the country’s GDP and employs about half of the population). But it turns out The Bahamas cuts it as a destination for the meetings and events, too. Here are five reasons why:
1. It’s Logistically Easy
The Bahamas offers all the trappings of an exotic destination without the difficulties that come along with travel to such locations.
> Most U.S. gateways have direct flights to Nassau. The flight from Atlanta, for example, is less than two hours. The only downside is that you might not be able to finish your in-flight movie.
> The Bahamas is in the Eastern time zone, minimizing jet lag and ensuring you can still reach business associates at a reasonable hour if needed.
> Because English is the national language, details won’t get lost in translation when coordinating travel or planning events.
> There’s no need to deal with the hassle of currency exchange because U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere.
2. Close to Home, but Worlds Away
Don’t let the two-hour flights fool you. The Bahamas provides visitors an adventure that is worlds away, with many opportunities to taste and experience the island’s culture. If your group is not in town during the Junkanoo Festival, take them to the Educulture Junkanoo Museum, dedicated to the rich history of this all-night street carnival participants spend all year preparing. The museum includes displays of award-winning Junkanoo costumes, and guests are also given an opportunity to contribute to the making of a costume, try on headpieces and create and dance along to Bahamian music.
When you’re ready for lunch, do like the locals and visit a fish fry. Drifters at Da Fish Fry serves made-to-order local favorites like conch fritters and cracked conch, a plentiful shellfish in The Bahamas. Finish with dinner at the Graycliff Restaurant, the oldest 5-star restaurant in the Caribbean with one of the largest privately owned wine cellars in the world.
While you’re at the Graycliff, don’t be surprised if your dinner runs over three hours. As an American used to the endless rush of living in a metropolitan area, it was a relief to sit back in true Bahamian style and really savor every meal and conversation. This is the modus operandi here, used to cultivate business relationships and close deals.
3. Exciting Activities and Day Trips
Most resorts offer a plethora of exciting activities on-site, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding and deep-sea fishing. If that’s not enough, hop on a 20-minute flight to Eleuthera and take a water taxi to Harbour Island, known for its pristine beaches, bohemian vibes and vibrant clapboard houses. Around 2,000 people inhabit this island. As our group explored on golf carts, the main mode of transportation here, the locals frequently called out greetings to us and addressed our tour guide by name. This familial touch extends to every service offered on the island. You’ll discover an array of locally owned dining establishments and not a single chain restaurant. Make sure to visit the famous pink sand beaches of Harbour Island. Visitors can also go horseback riding or try their hand at conch fishing.
4. Spacious Convention Centers
With more than 100,000 square feet of outdoor space for receptions, this resort is made to expand to fit large parties and contract to accommodate intimate meetings. Here’s another pleasant contradiction: Although it feels very spacious, the buildings are strategically placed tightly together, so guests never have to walk more than a few minutes to find a restaurant, a restroom or a towel hut. The resort also offers several rooftop areas to hold unforgettable receptions.
The convention center has a whimsical design and guests never escape the theme of water. The nautical-themed breakout rooms have wood paneling and are decorated with sailing paraphernalia, almost persuading guests that they’re on a yacht, not confined to a convention space. There’s more to come. The resort is expanding to Long Cay, a small island that can hold events for up to 1,200.
> Guest rooms: 2,336
> Meeting rooms: 36
> Indoor meeting space: 85,000 square feet
> Outdoor meeting space: 115,000 square feet
> Highlights: Beach access, 40+ restaurants/bars, full-service spa, largest casino in the Caribbean, 18-hole golf course, 20 acres of beachfront sanctuary and pool experience
Atlantis hosts an impressive convention center with over 200,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, including various sized ballrooms and 44 breakout rooms. Though all the amenities—including the Mandara Spa, 141-acre waterpark and casino—are available to every guest, the five hotels on the property provide meeting planners an opportunity to customize each event. Hosting a large gathering? The Royal offers 1,201 guest rooms and is situated in the center of the property, allowing easy access to all the activities provided in Atlantis. Planning a more private affair? The Cove offers an elegant and relaxed atmosphere. Accommodations include personal pools and cabanas and private access to white-sand beaches.
The Marina Village mirrors the style of a Bahamian village on one of the family islands. Authentic Bahamian cuisines are served at various restaurants and Atlantis even hosts its own Junkanoo festival.
> Guest rooms and suites: 3,394
> Meeting rooms: 44
> Indoor meeting space: 200,000 square feet
> Outdoor meeting space: 300,000 square feet
> Highlights: Beach access, 21+ restaurants/bars, full-service spa, casino, 18-hole golf course, 141-acre waterpark, interactive dolphin habitat
5. Perfect for Intimate Corporate Meetings and Incentive Trips
The Cove Resort is a peaceful hideaway on the north side of Eleuthera and is private and charming enough to attract the attention of a number of A-list celebrities. Maintaining the serene atmosphere takes precedence here, so corporate groups are limited to 30 attendees. The resort features two private white sand beaches, a sunset bar, an infinity pool and hammocks strewn between waving palm trees, tempting guests to abandon all afternoon activities for a nap in the sun. No wonder this is the place busy corporate professional choose to unwind and relax.
Situated on the famous pink sand beaches of Harbour Island, the Pink Sands Resort has the appearance of a tropical garden paradise. Pink Sands is the oldest resort in town and sits on the highest point on the island. Twenty-five luxurious cottages are spread out over 20 acres of land to give guests privacy. Guests can play tennis, set sail, go deep-sea fishing and enjoy cuisines made with ingredients grown in the resort’s organic gardens. Private meeting space is limited, insuring guests spend less time in the boardroom and more time on the beach.