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Yacht Shows Forecast Trends in Caribbean Charter Industry

Boat shows in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands in November and those happening in St. Maarten and Antigua in December as All At Sea went to press for this issue showcased the best of the Caribbean’s winter fleet to brokers from around the world. Here are a few show highlights and a forecast of top trends in the industry.

Hot Yachts

Shows in general entertained a mix of different type and size motor yachts as well as mono-hull and multi-hull sailing yachts.“The average length of yachts tends to increase just slightly each year,” says Janet Oliver, administrator at the Charter Yacht Society (CYS) of the BVI. “This year the average cat was about 55 feet. Cats still dominate in numbers. We only had 12 mono-hulls this year.”

However, says Dick Schoonover, who manages the clearinghouse, CharterPort BVI, “We did have new monohull additions to the fleet, including two brand new U.S.-built Beneteau 49s, 5 Star and Fate.”

Back to size, “The trend I most realized is that larger megayachts are interested in joining the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League (VICL),” says director Erik Ackerman, “and become more involved in our chartering community. A new yacht, M/Y Viaggio (74′ Horizon) was quite popular with the brokers as were first time show vessels, S/Y Felicia (65′ Jeantot) and M/Y Semper Fi (64′ Horizon).”

The St. Maarten and Antigua shows always attract larger yachts. Sarah Sebastian, coordinator of the Antigua Charter Yacht Show, said just before the December show, “We have 87 yachts booked in.” Of these, over 30 were yachts 100’ and longer.

Similarly, of the 40-plus yachts scheduled to attend December’s MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show, 35 were 100-plus-feet in length.

The Broker Force

Most charter yacht brokers attending the shows hailed from the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe.

“Nothing new along these lines,” says CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “We did, however, have Martha Lukasik attending from Gdansk, Poland, representing SunReef Yachts.”

Sue Maki, general manager of Flagship, a USVI-based clearinghouse, adds, “We did have one new broker from Dublin, Ireland, and others from England and New Zealand.”

Brokers from Thailand, Russia and Brazil attended the Antigua Charter Yacht Show.

Global Economic Effects

The global downturn in the economy, says Flagship’s Maki, “has definitely had an impact on the number of bookings we are seeing this year. We are hoping however, that we will see an increase in business again.”

The VICL’s Ackerman agrees and adds, “With a soft global economy, the U.S.V.I. still offers an ideal return on a charter investment for the European market. VICL has reached out to several travel markets throughout the EC and is currently cross marketing the charter industry with several travel agents from Germany, Poland and the UK.”

On the upside, says CYS’s Oliver, “We would like to see this as an opportunity to capture a new genre of charter guests. Perhaps those guests, who, in the past, have spent money to go on yachts larger than those in our fleet, will consider a more economical vacation.”

Eco-Friendly

‘Eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ continue to be big buzzwords and the concepts they embody have been embraced by the charter yacht industry.

“Many of our yachts have gone ‘green’ and promote it to all of their charter guests,” says Flagship’s Maki. “For example, many boats are providing guests with refillable water bottles with the yacht’s logo and name on them and cutting back on the number of plastic water bottles used during all charters. The guests can then take them home as a keepsake, too. In addition, they are utilizing the reusable ‘green’ shopping bags for all of their provisioning instead of plastic.”

The CYS’s Oliver adds, “At our AGM and pre boat show social, crews exchanged ideas on how to cut back their consumption of plastics as well as what could be done to improve the collection of glass for recycling. We included a ‘green’ information sheet written by an owner/operator in our captain packs to encourage crew to make wise environmental choices. The paper offered a range of advice, from what fish to avoid serving guests to which suntan lotion is least harmful to the coral.”

The MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show went green this year. All bioplastic alternatives were used at event parties and the food court.

The Outlook Ahead

“The outlook for the upcoming charter season is rather an anxious period as the dust settles following the newly elected Executive office in the U.S., and the worldwide economic shakeup that continues to unfold itself,” says the VICL’s Ackerman. “We are hopeful and confident that there will be a return of the yearly chartering faithful and a steady flow of tourism throughout the territory.”

YACHT HAVEN GRANDE CONTINUES DEVELOPMENT

The Virgin Islands Charteryacht League’s 34th Annual VICL Fall Charteryacht Show was once again held at Yacht Haven Grande. Officially opened in March 2007, the upscale megayacht property is poised for continued development

“IGY has plans for approximately $10 million of additional investment scheduled for the coming months,” says IGY’s Florida-based director of public relations, Chuck Smith. “This includes improvements to lighting and signage at the property; completion of the interiors of the Yacht Club building and the opening of that building; and construction of additional marina slips around the Yacht Club building for yachts up to 70 feet – providing dedicated dockage for the transient yachts from the region.

“IGY will also be focusing on the hotel site,” Smith says, “with the goal of designing and constructing a luxury hotel on site to bolster the strong tourism market in St. Thomas and to bring additional excitement and activity to Yacht Haven Grande.”

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