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Ask not what the Caribbean can do for you

What the industry can do to sustain the Caribbean market…

What can the industry do to sustain this key market, asks Norina Edelman, commercial director, International Marine Management.

So much has changed over the past two years. Life as we know it has morphed into science fiction. We are all, individually and collectively, left picking up the pieces, trying to re-create some rational version of our lives.

The superyacht market was changing even before COVID. With younger and adventurous owners/charterers entering the market, circumnavigation, once a thing of rarity, was becoming commonplace. Remote destinations were being added to cruising itineraries. The traditional patterns of Med-Caribbean or US-Caribbean were giving way to more varied itineraries.

This, in turn, changed yachting in the Caribbean. Service requests and needs increased and we, as Caribbean business owners in the industry, have made every effort to heed the call by providing more facilities, more professional services – all to the highest international standards. And we’re trying to do this without losing what many of us love most about the Caribbean – its authenticity, the casual and relaxed environment. 

COVID has altered our industry in new ways. Once considered a place for a quick escape, the yacht, for many, became home base. With the world shut down, there was no reason not to spend months on board, living in a private bubble, safe and in the place of one’s choosing. Time will tell whether these changes are a blip or will have created a permanent shift.

I’m lucky. As a business owner in the Caribbean, I have the great good fortune of living in a tropical paradise. Our experience of these past years has certainly been different than most; we have been spared much of the isolation and insulation. With a relatively small population who embraced protecting themselves and can be outside every day, all year round, keeping ourselves safe was relatively simple. 

Superyacht owners and charterers saw our good fortune. Driven out of Europe by the impending shutdowns, we saw yachts crossing from Europe to join our waters in May and June – something unheard of in years past. Even large superyachts opted to pass the entire hurricane season in our warm waters, staying through much of the following winter. Many yachts came early and stayed late in the second COVID winter. With the opportunity to be safe in paradise, why return to locked-down countries where each and every departure from the house felt risk-ridden?

Norina Edelman, commercial director, International Marine Management

As I write this in early November, the 2021-2022 winter season is poised to be one of our busiest ever. Marinas are already filling up, easily one month in advance of historical patterns. Charters are booked and confirmed for the coming months. Private vessels are arriving early and may remain well into spring. I believe that part of this is a pent-up desire from last year. Although many privately operated yachts chose to come to the Caribbean, chartering was tricky and worldwide COVID restrictions made travel extremely difficult. Many of those who wanted to join our winter paradise were not able to do so. 

As the Caribbean has much to offer the yachting community, so too does yachting give so much to the Caribbean. As is widely known and understood, the vast majority of the Caribbean’s economies are driven almost purely by tourism, which has suffered tremendous blows over the past years. Yachting provided a way to help us be sustainable. Last winter, when stay-over tourism was nearly non-existent, yachts filled our waters and fed our economies. So as much as superyachts are enjoying the Caribbean, we in the Caribbean rely on yachting.   

 The impact yachting has on our island economies is not easily overstated.  More than 10 years ago, yachting was found to contribute more than 16 per cent to the gross domestic product of St Maarten. The magnitude of that may not be easily comprehensible to those living in a European nation or Fort Lauderdale. For our small and fragile economies, this contribution literally changes the prospects for those who live here, providing jobs, opportunity and hope.  

We all know the Caribbean for its beauty, diversity of culture and landscape. As a cruising playground, it’s almost ideal, with so many island destinations just a few hours away from each other. We can change our world overnight. From the luxury of St Barths to the pristine diving of Saba; from the idyllic beaches of Anguilla to the underwater nature preserve of Guadeloupe; from the beautiful rock formations of St Lucia to the paradise of the Grenadines. 

But for all that the Caribbean provides, it receives in kind. I would like to believe we are all happy to know that what we do has a great impact, one that is lived and felt in the lives of island communities. I can assure you, first-hand, that is the case.

This article first appeared in The Americas Superyacht Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group's full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

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