PARADISE ISLAND, The Bahamas – Prime Minister Christie praised George Markantonis as the man of the hour who had the right qualities to meet the particular challenges that faced Atlantis resort when he took the helm nine years ago.
Mr. Christie admitted to mixed emotions on having to say farewell to Mr. Markantonis, President and Managing Director of Brookfield Hospitality Properties, who led Atlantis as “a fearless CEO” successfully guiding the resort “consistently and without much fanfare” through periods of change, transition to new ownership and management, and most recently through recapitalization by its new owner Brookfield Asset Management. The Prime Minister conveyed his remarks and best wishes at an Atlantis Farewell Reception for Mr. Markantonis on Thursday, March 12.
Mr. Markantonis, a seasoned hotelier from Zimbabwe, came to The Bahamas at a critical time for Atlantis and for The Bahamas in terms of development of the tourism industry. The Prime Minister pointed out “we had just lost Butch Kerzner and the loss, which reverberated throughout the length and breadth of this archipelago, had created a void at the helm of both Atlantis, then a family-run business, and of our tourism industry. Atlantis needed someone who would ensure that the brand remained vibrant and competitive.
“With six hotels comprising 4,000 rooms, a 140-acre Aqua venture water park – among the first of its kind in the world – other businesses and real estate spread across 550 acres, this would be a daunting task for any veteran hotelier during a time of global uncertainty and financial turbulence.
“Equally as important, the industry needed someone at the reins who could also understand the leadership role that Atlantis would have to play in helping to transition our tourism industry to new heights and the kinds of creative strategies that would be required from Atlantis to elevate The Bahamas brand in an even more competitive global marketplace.”
Prime Minister Christie pointed out that Mr. Markantonis had the particular qualities that matched him well to the challenges – a man of “both passion and pragmatism” Mr. Markantonis carefully negotiated the issues and brought Atlantis through tough times.
Mr. Christie said: “This was a time of testing for the entire organization and it was remarkable how Mr. Markantonis served as that crucial bridge between Kerzner International and the new owners. Undoubtedly, there were some key issues that needed to be resolved.
“The first and most obvious was to assure the markets and industry partners that Atlantis would remain viable and that it would survive the takeover.
“The second critical issue was to establish in the shortest of time a working relationship with Brookfield.
“Thirdly and critically important was to give certain assurances to Government and the staff and to the unions that no attrition would take place.
“Additionally, was the need to continue to work in close harmony with the Government of the Bahamas and to keep channels of communication open.
“Mr. Markantonis proved that he was more than up to the challenge. He has this rare combination of passion and pragmatism, which I am sure has been a beacon in these challenging times and has contributed tremendously to his own personal success. Brookfield came to appreciate the asset they had in Mr. Markantonis and working together with him and his executive team, they were able to gradually and without crisis bring the company out of receivership. George was one of the stabilizing forces behind this transition and certainly earned the position most recently held as Brookfield Hospitality’s president and managing director.”
Mr. Christie said Mr. Markantonis has nurtured an enviable cadre of professionals in the tourism field who have grown to become hospitality leaders in their own right, and created strong staffing at Atlantis.
George Markantonis, he said, will also leave a legacy of great generosity to charitable causes in The Bahamas, a country he has grown close to in his time here.
Among the Atlantis initiatives that have been very beneficial to the community: the building and maintenance of parks and beaches; support of groups like The Governor General’s Youth Awards; treatment for those impacted with AIDS and Breast Cancer; and establishment of Atlantis Blue Project Foundation (ABPF), formerly the Kerzner Marine Foundation. Notably, provision of most of the funding that has led to the expansion and safeguarding of the Andros of West Side National Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Caribbean; and preservation and restoration of coral reefs around New Providence and Rose Island.
The Prime Minister concluded: “His dedication to the development of the Atlantis brand culminated in his recognition last year as Caribbean Hotelier of the Year by the Caribbean Hotel Association. But having sustained this level of performance and recognition, small wonder then that he seizes this opportunity to begin another challenging chapter in what has been an illustrious 35-year career in hospitality.
“We are confident that his successor has been well prepared and will continue to lead in similar fashion and we look forward to the continued collaborative working relationship forged with the Atlantis team.
“I wish George Bon Voyage and Godspeed in his new undertakings. He has promised to keep in touch and weigh in on matters from time to time. We hope that he does, for he will always be a friend of The Bahamas. We thank him for what he has done for Atlantis and for The Bahamas and we certainly wish him well with this wonderful new opportunity that he has accepted as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Venetian, The Palazzo and the Sands Expo Centre in Las Vegas.”