Charter yachts—mega and minis, mono and multihulls, power and sail — flock to the Caribbean come fall. And it is the annual shows in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Antigua that serve as the vital link in connecting these floating resorts with the sales staff that markets them to a global clientele.
The goal of a charter yacht show, says Lucille Frye, an organizer of the MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show, is “to provide agents with the best possible opportunity to get to know the fleet of available luxury charter yachts and their crews. To do that we need to provide the best possible setting and environment, make sure that the yachts are well presented and correctly grouped, the crews comfortable with the format and security, the events planned to showcase the best of the yachts, and the organization smooth and flawless to ensure that agents can achieve as much as possible in the shortest possible time.”
The pre-holiday timing of the shows is a plus, says Sarah Sebastian, coordinator of the Antigua Charter Yacht Show. “There are few tourists or other persons present and the area is totally taken up with yachts, crews, and show attendees, making the networking possibilities enumerable.”
Shows also showcase the destinations and affiliated marine groups in each destination.
Janet Oliver, administrator at the Charter Yacht Society of the BVI, says, “One of the goals of our show is to highlight the BVI as a destination of choice.”
It’s an opportunity to invite and hear from speakers representing the local and federal government, says Erik Ackerson, the new director of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League (VICL), in St. Thomas, “as well as the hotel and tourism association, local ecology representatives and other vendors from both the Virgin Islands and U.S. mainland who represent marine products and services beneficial to our industry.”
To kick off the season of shows, the BVI anticipates hosting 60 to 65 yachts at its 27th Annual BVI Boat Show at Village Cay Marina.
Oliver says, “Newcomers to the industry understand it is a necessity to be in the show in order to be considered by charter yacht brokers for the season. Well established yachts use the show to debut new crew. Even without a changeover of crew, established charter yachts remain committed to doing the show either every year or every other year so brokers can be assured the excellent condition of the yacht has been maintained and the crew remains enthusiastic.”
Over 50 yachts were registered for the 47th Annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show as of August, says Sebastian. “We are expecting our usual 100-plus yachts.”
Early indications are that some 40 yachts will exhibit in the MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show. “The year on year gain has been in size and quality of the yachts. From 2006 to 2007 our fleet of large motor yachts more than doubled,” says Frye. “The disappointing trend has been in the sailboat category, with only one entrant last year. On the other hand, that yacht left extremely pleased with quite a few charters booked during the show and we hope to get the message out to sailboats that there is an advantage to being here.”
Over 100 brokers primarily from the U.S., UK, and Canada typically attend the BVI Boat Show. “It remains to be seen whether the reduction in flights into the islands will hugely impact our attendance this year,” says Oliver.
Some 350 brokers, hailing from throughout Europe and the US mainland, and from Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Thailand, Galapagos, Cuba and more attend the Antigua Yacht Show.
Meanwhile, St. Maarten is looking forward to greater broker turnout this year, says Frye. “In 2007, brokers were up by 50 percent over 2006, and most of this increase came from European brokers. The American contingent has been faithful attendees over the years. I think this year we’re probably looking at a maximum of 10 percent increase over last year.”
New this year, “we have added an additional day to our show,” says the BVI’s Oliver. “There will be four days of viewing yachts and meeting with the crew. This year too, there will be a day for brokers to enjoy cocktails aboard participating yachts. We always change the location of our Gala Dinner and this year it will be held at and sponsored by Nanny Cay.”
This year’s noteworthy speaker line-up at the VICL show includes Congresswoman Donna Christensen, yacht racing legend Peter Holmberg, Governor John deJongh, and maritime lawyer Mike Fitzsimmons. “We’ll be hosting a black and white reception with the Governor, Commissioner of Tourism and local VIPs on November 10,” says Ackerman. “A Hawaiian Luau on the green at Yacht Haven Grande is planned for the evening of November 12th.”
Antigua’s Sebastian says, “We have a new Chefs Competition format lined up this year.”
Finally, the St. Maarten show will be shortened this year by half a day due to popular request. “This makes scheduling extra events a little tricky,” says Frye. “Nevertheless we will be adding a few seminars through the show.”
Frye adds, “One of the bigger breakthroughs here in St. Maarten has been achieved with the government of the Netherlands Antilles softening their strict visa policy and accepting Seamen’s books at least for the period of the show. This development bodes well for the megayacht season on the island in general.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.
CARIBBEAN FALL CHARTER YACHT AND BOAT SHOW CALENDAR
December 4-9, 2008
47th Annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show
Nelson’s Dockyard Marina, Falmouth Harbour Marina, Antigua Yacht Club Marina
Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting
Tel: 268-460-1059, 268-764-5951