Above: Bahamas PM Perry Christie and Heat President Pat Riley
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The Miami Heat’s visit to the Atlantis Resort for a pre-season training camp made international news.
The question is, can the Bahamas replicate the visit with other teams in other sports?
Either way, the visit by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat was another sign that the Bahamas seems to be taking the lead in the region when it comes to sports tourism.
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie had high hopes following the Heat’s visit, which concluded on Thursday.
“Everything seems to have worked out well, they are happy with the management of the team, even after telling me t am a Los Angeles Lakers supporter,” Christie joked.
The PM is not alone, of course — when the Lakers were winning championships in the first part of the 2000s, they were doing so with the help of Bahamian Rick Fox.
But the Heat’s visit could have a listing impact for a country that has been actively seeking to highlight sports tourism, from the Battle of Atlantis NCAA tournament to an LPGA event.
In May, the country hosted a high-profile football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz.
“They have gone out of their way to impress upon me how relevant the Miami sporting teams are to tourism here in the Bahamas,” Christie said. “We should really bring special focus to getting them to feel a part of the Bahamas and that is what I was trying to do here — to let them know that the government of the Bahamas is really at one with the hotel management over here in hosting them.”
It’s part of a wider effort to make the Bahamas on the international sporting map, the PM said.
“I think we are doing it well, we are trying to integrate our stadium into sports tourism and we have now short-listed two or three international mega firms in terms of marketing, which have made an application to really become a part of the sports authority of the Bahamas and being able to create a real sports destination,” Christie said.
The Heat’s visit is the kind of event that could be duplicated in other parts of the Bahamas, Christie said, particularly with the Bahamas’ hands-off attitude.
“We give them their space and that’s what’s important here, knowing that we have to give them space,” he said.
“We have the opportunity to do this in Grand Bahama and Abaco and other places where teams, whether in basketball, whether in baseball, once we have the facilities they would want to be able to practice, being not pressed and harassed.”