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No slowdown in spending among the wealthy on this Bahamian island

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The Bahamas has more than 700 islands and cays; remote workers and students can live on 16 of them, including Eleuthera (shown here).

Sylvain Sonnet | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Word that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce had been seen on the marina of this tiny speck (5 square miles) of an island for a vacation was met with bemusement by the tourists who had gathered to watch the magnificent sunset at the bar, and with dismay by locals, worried that their little speck of paradise was turning into the next Saint Barts.

“I hear she’s staying right up the street,” a woman sitting alone at the bar told us. She was cheerfully downing perfectly chilled prosecco in a champagne flute.   

The locals seemed unimpressed.

“It’s the two percenters who are coming, and the ultra-rich,” one shopkeeper told us, noting that business had been brisk among the wealthier Americans, Canadians and Brits that are the backbone of the economy here.   

Maybe too brisk.  

“We have 20 billionaires on this island alone. The traffic is getting to be unbearable,” she said, eyeing me suspiciously.  

I straightened up and tried looking like a two percenter, but I wasn’t sure what they looked like.

Traffic? What traffic? I looked out the window of her shop. Most people were driving around in golf carts. With a population of only 1,800, Harbour Island and its one and only town, Dunmore Town, makes Saint Barts (population 11,000) look like midtown Manhattan.

The woman herself, she explained, had moved to Eleuthera, a 10-minute water taxi ride away, where the hoi polloi rarely come, apparently.

All of which begs the question: Why on earth would anyone, let alone Taylor Swift and a bunch of billionaires, come to this tiny speck?  

Why are there so many huge yachts sitting in Valentines Marina?

You can’t fly here

Harbour Island is barely an island. It’s an island off an island, in this case Eleuthera, some 60 miles northeast of Nassau. You can’t fly in. You have to fly to Eleuthera, take a taxi to a dock a few miles away, and take a water taxi to Harbour Island.  

This inaccessibility, apparently, is a major selling point for the tiny group of people that can fit on the island, and afford to pay the steep (Saint Barts-style) prices.

The operative word is “tiny.” The largest hotel has 41 rooms; the dozen or so other hotels have less than that.  Altogether, there can’t be more than 250 hotel rooms on the entire island.  It’s unlikely you’ll see a big global chain set up shop here. I’s doubtful the infrastructure could support a large hotel.  Not surprisingly, there seems to be a brisk business renting out the few houses on the island.

Walk around the town for a few days, though, and you can see why a small group of travelers keep coming back and seem very uninterested in making it bigger:

  • Pink Sands Beach: This is one of the great beaches of the Caribbean, indeed of the world. It really is pinkish, thanks to the decaying shells of microscopic sea creatures. It stays white, hundreds of feet offshore, no seaweed, no rocks, no anything, just blue water. It’s flat, and the sand is compact so you can walk without sinking in.  It’s so compact that people ride horses up and down the whole three-mile stretch.
  • The restaurants: How is it possible that an island with a few hundred visitors can support so many great restaurants? There’s local places Queen Conch or Ma Ruby, which serves terrific Caribbean food and is known for its “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (It’s served on a brioche-style bun, and supposedly earned the praises of Jimmy Buffett). There’s terrific Italian food at Aquapazza, and classic Caribbean meat and fish dishes at Latitude 25 at the Coral Sands Hotel, or at the classy Dunmore Hotel, or at Malcolm 51 at the swanky all-cottage Pink Sands Resort, or the Rock House, or The Landing, or at Valentines. And still you can’t a get reservation on many nights.
  • The houses: You’d think an island with so many wealthy visitors and residents would be stuffed with giant McMansions and multi-acre compounds. They are certainly here. The boat captain we hired for a day cruise quipped that “the millionaires live on the north side, the billionaires live on the south side, and everyone else lives in the middle.”  People like Bill Gates, Ron Perlman, Mickey Drexler, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, and Wayne Huizenga are said to have homes here. But Dunmore Town is full of modest, one and two-story homes that are ablaze with color: blues, yellows, reds, a veritable explosion of pastels, along with purple morning glories everywhere.
  • The churches:  Walk around on a Sunday and you can hear singing.  It’s a religious country:  90% belong to some religious denomination, though it’s largely Protestant (Baptists and Anglicans), with Roman Catholics and a smattering of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Greek Orthodox, and others.  We attended the Lighthouse Church of God to hear Pastor Samuel Higgs and guitarist Rocky Sanders and a heavenly group of singers rock the house with old-school gospel music. Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz have also stopped by. Higgs and Sanders played clubs in Europe before coming back to the island.
  • The people: The Bahamian people are famous for their warmth and friendliness, and it comes out in abundance on a small island like this. Just say “good morning” to anyone, and they will stop and say, “Good morning!  How are you?”  They’ll smile, and they mean it.

 The two percenters: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em

 While the locals may be complaining about traffic and rich people, don’t expect the government of the Bahamas to shut the door. Tourism accounts for 50% of the GDP of the country, and employs nearly 70% of the workforce.  Thanks to that infusion of cash, per capita income is the third largest in the Western Hemisphere (behind the U.S. and Canada).

Luxury travel may be booming, but travel to the Caribbean in general remains strong. Arrivals were up 14.3% last year, according to a recent report by the Caribbean Tourism Organization reported by Caribbean Journal.  

And while the locals may complain, any small island or city would kill to get the kind of intense loyalty places like this seem to engender.

The woman at the bar at Valentines said she had been coming here for 20 years, and had her honeymoon here.  She had flown into Eleuthera on a private plane with her husband (who owned car dealerships in the Midwest), her children, and friends of theirs. They had chartered a boat to spend a few weeks in the Bahamas, and would be going south to even smaller islands.

Why was she sitting alone at the bar?

Her family, she said with a smile, was off looking for Taylor Swift.



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United Airlines (UAL) 1Q 2024 earnings

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A United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft lands at San Francisco International Airport.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

United Airlines on Tuesday cut its aircraft-delivery expectations for the year as it grapples with delays from Boeing, the latest airline to face growth challenges because of the plane-maker’s safety crisis.

United expects to receive just 61 new narrow-body planes this year, down from 101 it said it had expected at the beginning of the year and contracts for as many as 183 planes in 2024.

“We’ve adjusted our fleet plan to better reflect the reality of what the manufacturers are able to deliver,” CEO Scott Kirby said in an earnings release. “And, we’ll use those planes to capitalize on an opportunity that only United has: profitably grow our mid-continent hubs and expand our highly profitable international network from our best in the industry coastal hubs.”

United said it plans to lease 35 Airbus A321neos in 2026 and 2027, turning to Boeing’s rival for new planes as the U.S. manufacturer faces caps on its production and increased federal scrutiny. In January, United said it was taking Boeing’s not-yet-certified Max 10 out of its fleet plan. The airline said it has converted some Max 10 planes for Max 9s.

It lowered its annual capital expenditure estimate to $6.5 billion from about $9 billion.

United is also facing a Federal Aviation Administration safety review, which has prevented some of its planned growth. A spokeswoman told CNBC earlier this month that the carrier will have to postpone its planned service from Newark, New Jersey, to Faro, Portugal, and service between Tokyo and Cebu, Philippines.

United earlier this month postponed its investor day, which was scheduled for May, “because our entire team is focused on cooperating with the FAA to review our safety protocols and it would simply send the wrong message to our team to have an exciting investor day focused primarily on financial results.”

The airline said it would have reported a profit for the quarter if not for a $200 million hit from the temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 9 in January.

The FAA temporarily grounded those jets after a door plug blew out minutes into an Alaska Airlines flight, sparking a new safety crisis for Boeing and slowing deliveries of its planes to customers including United, Southwest and others.

The airline posted a net loss of $124 million, or a loss of 38 cents a share, in the first quarter compared with a $194 million loss, or 59 cents, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 10% in the first quarter compared with the year-earlier period to $12.54 billion, with capacity up more than 9% on the year.

Here’s what United reported in the first quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by LSEG:

  • Loss per share: 15 cents adjusted vs. a loss of 57 cents expected
  • Revenue: $12.54 billion vs. $12.45 billion expected

The airline expects to post earnings of between $3.75 and $4.25 in the second quarter, ahead of analysts’ estimates of about $3.76 a share. Airlines make the bulk of their profits in the second and third quarters, during peak travel season.

The carrier also reiterated its full-year earnings forecast of between $9 and $11 a share.

United’s shares were up more than 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

United executives will hold a call with analysts at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Don’t miss these exclusives from CNBC PRO



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Ex-Post Office boss regrets ‘missed opportunity’ to halt Horizon scandal

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“On reflection, and I have reflected on this very hard, when I finished being the Horizon programme director [in early 2000] it would have been very beneficial if I had notified both the lawyers and the [investigations team] that Horizon was a new system coming in, and that they should be very cautious about evidence coming out of that system,” he said.



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Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and debt restructuring efforts By Reuters

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COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s government rejected a proposal from its international bondholders on Tuesday on restructuring the more than $12 billion the country owes to them.

It means a near two-year spell in default will drag on for Sri Lanka and that the country’s next tranche of vital IMF support money could potentially get delayed.

Below is a timeline of the key events in the crisis and the efforts to resolve it:

2021-2022: Sri Lanka’s economy crumbles after years of overspending leaves its foreign exchange reserves critically low and the government unable to pay for essentials, such as fuel and medicine.

The country’s bonds suffer from multiple downgrades by credit rating agencies warning of the increasing risk of default. At the start of 2022 it manages to make a $500 million bond payment but it leaves its foreign exchange reserves precariously low.

MAY, 2022 – Sri Lanka is declared in default after it fails to make a smaller $78 million bond coupon payment.

JULY, 2022 – Public anger drives protesters to storm then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office and residence. Rajapaksa flees to the Maldives, before moving on to Singapore.

Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe is voted into power by Sri Lankan lawmakers.

MARCH, 2023 – The International Monetary Fund approves a near $3 billion bailout for Sri Lanka after talks with Wickremesinghe’s government and assurances about its plans to repair the country’s finances.

OCTOBER, 2023

Sri Lanka announces an agreement with China’s EXIM (export/import) Bank to delay payments on about $4.2 billion worth of loans the Chinese lender it has extended to the country.

NOVEMBER, 2023

Other creditor nations including India, Japan and France agree to restructure about $5.9 billion in debt.

MARCH, 2024

A group of Sri Lankan officials arrives in London to meet with a number of investment funds that hold its more than $12 billion worth of government bonds. Talks advance to the key “restricted” phase where proposals are discussed privately and those involved agree not to buy or sell any of the debt on the open market.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the main business district as rain clouds gather above in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

APRIL, 2024

The government rejects a proposal tabled by the bondholders. The main stumbling blocks are that some the “baseline” assumptions used differ to those of the IMF and that the plan did not include a contingency option for the government in case the economy fails to recover as expected.





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