White sandy beaches and warm ocean waters make the tropical islands of the Bahamas a popular holiday destination for the rich and famous - and now mainland buyers are being offered an opportunity to set up home in Nassau, capital city of the Caribbean island chain.
Baha Mar - a US$3.5 billion mainland-backed resort comprising hotels, luxury homes, a retail complex, a golf course and a casino - is under construction and due to open in 2014.
'We launched the project to mainland buyers earlier than launches in London and Singapore,' said Richard English, senior vice-president of residential sales for the developer, Baha Mar.
A reason mainland buyers are getting priority is the fact that Baha Mar is financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and being built by China State Construction Engineering Corp (CSCEC). 'So we want to show respect to our partners,' said English.
In recent months, several large developers around the world have reportedly been turning to mainland backers to seek funding for projects.
Planning for the project got under way in 2008 after the global financial crisis erupted, but that presented an opportunity, English said.
'There were no new projects or big hotel developments being planned because of the recession in Europe and the United States. China State Construction had been in the US for 25 years, but had no big project on its books. So we agreed to give them work for four years and purchase significant quantities of construction material, furniture and fittings from the mainland. We also promised to bring 5,000 mainland workers to Baha Mar.'
The project also presented the Shanghai-listed CSCEC - the third-largest construction company in the world and builder of the eye-catching 'water cube' aquatics centre for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - another opportunity to show its skills on a world stage.
Another reason to market Baha Mar in China was its strong economic growth, English said.
The resort covers an area of 404.69 hectares on the waterfront of Nassau, which is a 45-minute flight from Miami. As well as becoming home to what the developer says will be the biggest casino in the Caribbean, it will host hotel brands such as Grand Hyatt, Mondrian and Rosewood as well as the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. Each hotel will offer residences for sale as well as guest rooms.
A total of 307 flats are priced from US$1.5 million to US$10 million. Sizes range from one-bedroom flats of 78 square metres to four-bedroom villas of 600 square metres. All flats will be fully furnished and are scheduled for completion in December 2014.
Buyers may keep the flats for their exclusive use, or use them for up to 90 days a year and make them available for rent for the rest of the year. The developer will appoint 14 agencies to lease flats in the rental scheme, but will not provide rental guarantees.
All buyers are eligible to apply for permanent residency status in the Bahamas.
'Residency is important. It allows buyers to visit without visas, and so the flats can become second homes in case they are needed,' English said. 'The Bahamas are close to the United States and it is easy to get a one-day visa to visit the States,' he added, noting that this could be attractive to families who planned to send their children to study abroad.
'At a marketing launch in Sanya, on Hainan Island, in April, the developer booked a total of US$25 million worth of reservations,' he said, and the project also attracted a strong response when it was launched in Beijing and Shanghai this month.
Of the 307 flats available, 56 have been reserved and about half of the buyers are from the mainland.