Since last year Government expressed intent to push the Territory’s yachting sector further, noting that the sailing industry is – qualitatively – a major propeller of the tourism industry. However, the Irma disaster left fears that like other areas of the BVI economy this sector might not recover fast enough to capitalize on the opportunities this new season brings. Thankfully, however the BVI yachting sector is moving swiftly back to normalcy as major charter companies reopen. At night time it’s a relief to see all those lights at The Moorings, Village Cay and Cooper Island.
Last month Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith described the plight of the yachting sector during a Diaspora Meeting that was held in New York on Friday, 3 November. The Premier told the gathering: “Now there is the cruising industry – and those are the yachts, which forms a serious part of our tourism industry, but the yachts were exposed. We had a safe harbor called “Hurricane Hole” at Paraquita Bay, where during the hurricane, yachts would be tied up and sheltered by the mangroves, but for this particular storm, Irma, the mangroves were no match for Irma. The mangroves were all destroyed, and so the yachts were all destroyed — most of them.”
“A large part of the yachts, a large portion of the yachting fleet was destroyed, but because they were insured, they expect to begin operations, I think next month/later this month, because they are going to get new vessels into the fleet to start the operation of those, and then begin to build up the fleet until next year and, hopefully they’ll be able to have a whole fleet later down in the year/next year. So from the point of view of tourism, those two sections will be hopefully ready to return to full functioning,” the BVI Leader added.
Massive Investments, Incentives & Progress
Since the Premier’s announcement some of the major operators in BVI yachting industry have indicated readiness to welcome sailing enthusiasts. Horizon Yacht Charters announced that it intends to get its base which is located in Hannahs up and running by 20 December.
While Marine Max was proud to declare that it is open for business and is plugging vacations to sailing enthusiasts with a sales pitch “It’s time to vacation in the islands.” Additionally the company said “To aid in the rejuvenation of the islands and kick off the opening of charter season this December, Marine Max will be donating 10 percent of your new charter booking fee to the BVI Relief effort. This donation offer is available for new charter vacation reservations for travel between December 1, 2017 and March 1, 2018aboard our charter fleet in the British Virgin Islands.”
BVI Yacht Charters stated that on 11 November its first crewed charter went out and in the process kicked off the company’s charter season. In fact BVI Yacht Charters announced that it has great expectations for the season: “Our docks are full again with pristine yachts that have been buffed and polished and lots of new yachts that arrived recently straight from the factory.”
“To celebrate the fresh arrivals in our fleet we are offering 30 percent off any last-minute bareboat charter for any remaining dates until 20 December 2017 and 20 percent off any last-minute bareboat charters for any remaining dates between December 21 and January 31,” the company mentioned.
The Moorings and Sunsail which are leading players in the yacht chartering sector had their grand reopening of their BVI base on 9 December. It was announced that the brands have a combined fleet of more than 100 yachts ready for chartering. It was also noted that approximately $66.5 million was invested to secure new fleet shipments of over 130 boats which is scheduled to arrive in the Territory in early 2018.
The Moorings and Sunsail also partnered to establish the Caribbean Comeback fundraiser which will see 100 percent of all funds raised going towards the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin and Puerto Rico employees.