Graeme Davis

Graeme Davis

President | Baha Mar

Industry
Real Estate and Hospitality

Location
Nassau, The Bahamas


Graeme Davis: The President of the Bahamas’ $4.2B Resort Destination, Baha Mar, on Staying Strong through a Crisis and How to Reopen Strong and Safe.

Baha Mar President Graeme Davis has spent over 30 years of his luxury hospitality career in the Caribbean. As president of Baha Mar, Davis leads the overall strategic planning and operational organization of the $4.2B resort destination. Home to the largest casino in the Caribbean as well as four global hotel brands—SLS, Rosewood, Grand Hyatt, and Melia—a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, and a collection of over 40 restaurants, bars, and lounges, Baha Mar offers travelers the luxury of choice to vacation in the Bahamas their way. Since opening its doors in April 2017, Baha Mar has become one of the most sought-after vacation experiences for contemporary global travelers with its array of amenities and offerings.

As Baha Mar undergoes a temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis is keenly focused on the future of the resort and has been taking this time to look after the associates and invest in new resort offerings, guest amenities, and more to introduce to travelers when Baha Mar reopens later in 2020, fueling a prosperous future for tourism and hospitality in the Bahamas.

The Baha Mar development on Nassau.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the nation of the Bahamas and to the resort destination of Baha Mar. We reacted swiftly to close the property on March 25 to protect our associates, their families, and the citizens of the Bahamas. We were in the fortunate position to compensate all of our associates for the following 90 days, providing 40% of their salaries plus full benefits. At the end of June, we enacted another 90 days of full benefits and 30% of salaries in order to support our full-time associates and provide as much financial assistance during this time of closure as possible. Our greatest concern now is the increase in COVID-19 infections spreading across key markets in the United States and the effects of the virus spread on Americans as well as our fellow Bahamians. Our goal is to reopen Baha Mar later this fall.

A villa at the Rosewood Baha Mar.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?

Our current business strategy is to maintain brand awareness for Baha Mar as well as personal and meaningful connections with our guests. We are communicating through social media, digital marketing, and our website to let our guests know that we are still here and we look forward to the day we welcome them back to the Bahamas.

To maintain our investment strategy set forth last year, we continue to create new experiences, and build upon existing ones, for our future guests. We have resumed construction on Baha Mar Bay, the $200M water adventure offering; Mini Blue, an 18-hole miniature golf course; a new signature dining concept from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson; and Sugar Factory and numerous other retail shops that are under construction as we speak. We have also recommenced construction at Melia Nassau Beach and we cannot wait to share the spectacular, contemporary upgrades and improvements planned for future guests.

I am resolute in my confidence and have full faith in the resilience of the tourism industry in the Bahamas. We know we will be back, so we are taking this time to invest in the future of our resort and continue forward with our commitment to enhance Baha Mar’s offerings to enrich the overall unforgettable, contemporary vacation experience awaiting travelers in the Bahamas.

We are also focused on maintaining deep relationships with our 5,000 associates and supporting them as best we can, so that when Baha Mar reopens, we have our family team onboard. Our associates are vigorously loyal, inspired, and motivated to offer an exceptional experience to our returning guests. Job opportunity and long-term, lasting stability for The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a top priority for us.

The Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Baha Mar.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?

I am very optimistic that, a year from now, the tourism and hospitality industry will be in a much better place, with a strong return on the pent-up demand for travel from families and friends who are looking for safe, intimate vacation experiences. Every current event and global happening affects the travel industry in some way, and throughout time, travel has confronted many crises. We know that travel will look and feel different a year from now, but the industry will prevail.

We are focusing on how we can best provide our guests with physically distanced experiences that, while naturally designed into the resort destination, have been reimagined through the lens of social distance and safety. 

At Baha Mar, that means new ways to maintain social distance, heightened sanitation processes, and the introduction of modern technology to evolve the ways our associates interact with guests. We recently introduced Our Commitment to Your Wellbeing, the resort’s unwavering commitment to a safe and clean environment for our guests and associates upon our reopening, covering all brands at the Baha Mar Resort, including the Grand Hyatt, Rosewood Baha Mar, the SLS Hotel, Melia, and the Baha Mar Resort Casino.

Baha Mar has always been a natural collection of intimate experiences, and in our new normal these areas of privacy will be more important than ever. These spaces, along with Our Commitment to Your Wellbeing, will create attractive options for future guests—from Long Cay, Baha Mar’s private island, and spacious cabanas at The Baha Bay Beach Club to countless options for outdoor dining, private art classes at The Current, and close-up encounters with our flamingos and nurse sharks. We are focusing on how we can best provide our guests with physically distanced experiences that, while naturally designed into the resort destination, have been reimagined through the lens of social distance and safety.

I believe technology will be one of the greatest features to impact hotels in the modern age. The ability to check in to guest rooms, open a door, and sign for a check seamlessly by scanning an RFID bracelet are ways to ensure contactless interactions at Baha Mar. We’ve also centralized many guest offerings through the Baha Mar app, which we’ll encourage our guests to download prior to arrival. Technology will also play an essential role in our sanitation and cleanliness procedures across the resorts at Baha Mar.

My hope of course is for an effective COVID-19 vaccine to come to market in the near future, driving the strong resurgence in travel demand the hospitality industry needs, paired with the fundamental structure of a strong economy to allow consumers to comfortably start spending again on individual, group, and leisure travel. We will be well prepared, however, with cleanliness and safety protocols in place, to operate within a COVID-19 environment, should we be in a global position where the virus is still active upon reopening.

The private island Long Cay, just off of Baha Mar’s coast.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?

Having managed through 9/11, the 2008 economic recession, and now COVID-19, I’ve learned how inexplicably important it is to focus on our associates first and foremost in times of crisis. We will always prioritize support for our team and continue to work hard to build the type of loyalty that our business relies on to maintain our competitive advantage as a resort destination, once we come through on the other side.

Second, I know from experience that while necessary steps are often the hardest ones to take, they also yield the most stable, long-term solutions. In crisis, it is essential to downscale business expenses appropriately, while maintaining contact with our customers and guests to look ahead to the future and prepare to relaunch better than before. In this case, that means prioritizing the creation of exceptional new experiences that our guests and associates can be excited about for years to come.

Safe–and entertained–at home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime

 

Morning routine?
I still go into the office to maintain close relationships with my essential team of over 300 associates working to uphold the entire Baha Mar resort destination. I’m waking up earlier these days to get in an hour of tennis five days a week. It’s important to me to always prioritize mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Currently binging?
I recently enjoyed Schitt’s Creek—watching the main character manage a small motel in the middle of nowhere. I’ve also caught up on some stellar documentaries and The Politician series with Gwyneth Paltrow and Bette Midler. Of course, it was great to catch the new season of Billions as well. There are so many great shows but hardly enough time to watch much other than the latest news on CNN, Fox, NPR, and NBC.

Currently reading?
I spend the majority of my reading time with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal these days.

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
A silver lining of the current state of affairs is having my 19-year-old daughter home from university and my 14-year-old son home from IMG Academy, where he is training to play professional tennis. We have done a tremendous amount of cooking and baking together—my favorite dishes have been an authentic Paella and homemade pasta. We also purchased an ice cream maker for homemade ice creams and sorbets. We decided we’ll never go back to store-bought ice cream now, after making it ourselves.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Tennis has been a great physical routine for me along with deep-sea fishing from time to time, and a bit of diving, which is one of the most relaxing hobbies—to be under the water exploring coral reefs and enjoying the incredible Bahamian waters and sea life.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
Right now, I am solely dreaming of opening the Baha Mar resort destination as soon as we can, safely and sustainably, to bring our associates back to work. I don’t need to dream of visiting anywhere else while living here in one of the most breathtaking places on earth: the Bahamas.