Yachting Sector Buoyant
For this issue of Caribbean Compass, we asked a broad sampling of business people, event organizers and other professionals throughout the Eastern Caribbean's marine tourism sector to share their insights on the current outlook for the industry, especially with regard to the events of 11 September. We also asked Compass correspondents in Trinidad and Grenada to poll the members of the cruising community gathered there for the hurricane season, to "get a take" on the private yachts' plans for the upcoming sailing season. We thank our more than 60 industry respondents, our correspondents and the numerous cruisers who kindly cooperated in this effort, and extend our sympathy to all victims of the events of September 11, 2001.
Narendra Sethia, manager of Barefoot Yacht Charters in St. Vincent, was one of the first to respond:
"When the news of the 11th September terrorist attacks was first broadcast I was on holiday, sitting in a small hotel room 300 miles east of Pakistan, in the Western Himalayas. Apart from being horrified by the images I saw on television, I was extremely concerned about the possible effects on our business and I immediately strode down to the Lower Bazaar in search of an internet café. I wrote to my business partner, Mary Barnard, that I was very worried about the potentially disastrous consequences on the Caribbean charter industry and I suggested that we would have to have a complete re-think about our marketing and pricing strategies for the coming season. Mary responded that she did not feel that we would suffer any adverse effects. All I could do was to tell her that I hoped that her optimism was well-founded, but feared that it was not."
"Two weeks later," Narendra continues, "on my return to the office, I was surprised to see that, during my absence, inquiries and bookings had continued to flow in, and, at the time of this writing [4 October] we have had only one cancellation - and this client re-scheduled his November trip for January 2002."
It turned out that Narendra's reply was not an anomaly. Laura Fletcher of Grenada Marine says, "I believe yachting will be more or less unaffected." Robbie Ferron of Budget Marine agrees: "I believe that the consumption pattern of most metropolitan countries in relation to the 9/11 incident is not going to be reduced by a large percentage. There are really no hard facts to support the hype that people are going to continue to be afraid to fly or to vacation. The bigger issue is the recession which was already oncoming at the time. This is likely to affect certain sections of the tourist industry where the necessary belt-tightening of the middle classes is going to play a role.
"I do not believe, however, that the marine industry is going to be much affected. In the mild recession of 1986/87 there was no evidence of the marine industry being affected, and there is even a theory that certain groups of well-off yachtsmen are more likely to take their boats to the Caribbean in those periods when the entrepreneurial options are limited. In other words: 'when there is no money to be made up north, we may as well go and play in the south!'"
Or as Caribbean chart publisher Hasko Scheidt of Nautical Publications put it, "Overall, I feel these incidents will have about the same effect as a hurricane - which fortunately we haven't yet had this year. It's not good, but you get over it."
Compass received too many detailed responses to include them all, so we chose representative extracts. We hasten to state that we did NOT deliberately select only items which would paint a rosy picture. While many respondents expressed some uncertainty about the future, most information supplied was generally positive (although it is quite possible that we didn't hear from the businesses which are not doing well), and overall attitudes were at least cautiously optimistic. Due to space limitations, we have had to omit some very interesting replies. A full report can be obtained at www.caribbeancompass.com
It also must be noted that although the news we received from the marine business community is generally good so far, there is little doubt that the state of the world economy combined with the effects of 9/11 will create economic stress throughout the Caribbean, and that any regional civil or political unrest would worsen the situation. Tourism is the single largest earner of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the wider Caribbean region. The region-wide proportion of marine to "land" tourism is unknown, with the marine sector weighing in from virtually none in some areas, to an estimated 21 percent in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and to over 50 percent in the BVI.
Birgit Schlemper of Wallace & Co. Fishing & Boat Supplies in Bequia notes, "People living on their own boats are fairly independent and can move swiftly and individually." Certain governments have already taken steps to attract more yachts to fill the tourist gap: Immigration in St. Lucia now gives yachting visitors six months upon entry, instead of six weeks, with a free six-month renewal. The government of St. Vincent & the Grenadines has announced a "zero tolerance" policy toward litter, harassment and crime, and will be inaugurating a Marine Tourism Task Force in the New Year. Cuba will be hosting an international symposium on "Nautical Tourism in the Caribbean" on March 5 and 6, 2002.
How does nautical tourism in the region look since 9/11? Here is what our information search revealed.
After 9/11, cruisers of many nationalities joined with citizens throughout the Caribbean at innumerable candlelight vigils and prayer services. Moved by the heroism of rescue workers who died at the WTC towers, Dona on WindWitch, Bryan on Nightwinds and Hope on Sunshine Daydream organized a collection from yachts visiting Grenada and local businesses. As a result, US$2,150 was donated to The New York Times "9/11 Neediest Fund" which assists families who lost breadwinners in the disaster.
But it seems the cruisers are not running home. From St. Lucia, VHF net controller Brian Pickton, aboard Legend, reports, "I have not heard of any cruisers cancelling their sailing plans." Ken Douglas, on Great White Wonder, says: "I have been talking to cruisers here in Trinidad about whether or not they are going to stay. Was the WTC thing going to hasten their departure? Were they afraid because of the Moslem community here? No and no are the answers. I haven't come across any cruisers who are afraid to be out here now." David Allester aboard Little Gidding adds, "Though certainly what happened in New York was a tragedy, I can't imagine leaving Trinidad because of it. If anything, I'm probably safer here on my boat."
John and Melodye Pompa on Second Millennium note, however, that "We have had reports of some anti-American activity in Trinidad - signs and the like, nothing violent or personal. So far, here [in Grenada] at least, that has not happened. But if we start seeing indications of anti-Americanism here or anywhere, we will leave."
Pippa McGrevy of Stella by Starlight reports: "I spoke to about 30 cruisers in Grenada over the weekend [of September 29] and 'life goes on' was the overall response. I was told that the decline in the stock market will effectively cut the amount of money that some cruisers can spend in the islands, so they will have to limit taxis and restaurant meals. A few were worried about the future increase in airfares, as that would then affect their own trips back home and visits by their families and friends.
"Only one US-flagged vessel will be changing their cruising plans as a result of September 11th. They had intended to visit the northern Pacific countries, many of which are Muslim, but are now considering the Med. All the other cruisers I interviewed will be continuing with their winter plans: cruising the Caribbean, going on to the Panama Canal or Central America, or returning home at the end of their time out."
Cruisers already in the Caribbean might be joined by greater than usual numbers arriving from the US and the Mediterranean. Former cruisers Terry and Linda Billings, Budget Marine Bosun's Locker, Bequia say, "We expect an increase of transatlantic cruisers this year, due to the proximity of 'events' to the Mediterranean. Most cruisers winter in places like Turkey, Cyprus and North Africa - none of which would be all that comfortable right now." Hasko Scheidt says, "In recent years, Europeans didn't travel much to the Caribbean because the US dollar was too high, and I think if they plan to stay in the Med this winter they're not going to change their plans. But Americans feel safer in the Caribbean."
From Cuba, Commodore José Miguel Díaz Escrich of the Hemingway Yacht Club reports: "Diplomatic sources and experts coincide in pointing out that countries neighbouring the United States will soon be beneficiaries of visits by American boatowners who will look for a cruising destination for their holidays, to avoid the inconveniences of air travel."
Nick Webster, Atlantic Yacht Shipping, UK: "Atlantic Yacht Shipping will be carrying some 50 yachts from France and the UK to the BVIs as usual this November. However the normal shipment from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean (large bareboat companies provide the main cargo) has been postponed due to lack of demand. Atlantic Yacht Shipping does however expect to run a second westbound shipment from Europe in January 2002 to satisfy demand. Interestingly, we are experiencing an increasing requirement for the shipping of motoryachts from Europe to the Caribbean."
Caribbean 1500 organizer Steve Black (this annual rally, which usually attracts some 60 boats, is scheduled to depart the East Coast of the US for the BVI on 4 November): "We have 53 boats registered [as of early October] and may gain a few more." Jeremy Wyatt, Manager, World Cruising Club (which organizes the ARC, scheduled to depart the Canary Islands bound for St. Lucia on 25 November, with 225 yachts): "To date [5 October] ARC 2001 remains oversubscribed, although we have had two withdrawals as a direct result [of 9/11] - one where a relative had been killed in the WTC disaster, and a second over concerns on investments."
Susan Chandler, executive director, Virgin Islands Charteryacht League: "We fully expected cancellations and no booking activity. However, we had at least ten bookings last week [early October]." In addition, Chandler says there has been no disruption to plans for the league's annual November Charteryacht Show. "Little more than a week after the attacks, we had twelve brokers register for the show," Chandler says. "Yacht registry has been very good as well; [as of 10 October] we only have five slips left for the show." Carter Wilbur, manager of Flagship, a St. Thomas-based charteryacht clearinghouse, adds: "We have the benefit of being a low population-density destination, and charteryacht vacations are even less population dense. I can't see a terrorist wanting to target a 'six-pack' yacht."
General Manager Bruno Deverre, Cap Sud Yachtcharters, Guadeloupe: "We noted some delay in reservations since September 11, but not too much. We feel that clients will book later - bookings made less than one month before departure are normal. Bookings for Christmas are already okay, the sales for 'à la cabine' are down, but standard crewed-charter business seems reasonable. There is more demand for big yachts, and many requests for year-off holidays for 2002 or 2003."
Manager Jérôme Touzé, The Moorings in Martinique: "Today, bookings are still good, but if the situation goes on this will affect the bookings and we could have to reduce our activity. However, I'm optimistic as the Caribbean could be considered as a very safe destination, and Martinique with the French 'Vigipirate' [anti-terrorist] plan is in a very good position."
Narendra Sethia, Barefoot Yacht Charters: "Projections indicate that our gross sales might be down on the previous year, but I would attribute this as much to global economic conditions as to the 11th September incidents. In fact, whilst September and October sales were down, November's are currently pretty well the same as they were last year, and much of our November business has been taken subsequent to 11th September.
"As things stand, we estimate that we will see a 10 to 15 percent reduction in sales over the following 6 months, but hope that our pricing policy will help. We plan no rate increases for 2002, and we are offering free sailing days and last-minute discounts. We have also made strong efforts to increase the European share of our business and this is now paying dividends.
"Thus, whilst I feel that there may be some small, short-term effect, I do not think that the Caribbean yacht charter business will suffer long-term effects."
MARINAS AND BOATYARDS
Commodore Díaz Escrich, Marina Hemingway, Cuba: "Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the 105 docked boats in Marina Hemingway began an exodus and in few days there were only 77 boats. But today [19 October] we are back up to 103 boats. There was a decrease in the arrival of boats from September 11 until September 18. Of the 24 boats which have arrived since then, 19 are from the United States."
Lucy de Troncoso, Managing Director, Marina Chavon, Dominican Republic: "Business was kind of slow the first weeks [after 9/11], but now we are getting back to normal. For December we already are pretty busy, and these days we are receiving a lot of requests."
Carole Dudley, director of operations, Crown Bay Marina, St. Thomas reports that Crown Bay continues to receive advance bookings for the winter season, and that no yachts with prior reservations had canceled as of the end of September. "We are fortunate that our marina's client base is a mix of US and foreign-flag vessels, whose owners have access to private aircraft," she says. Dennis Kissman, President of Marina Management Services, the management company for Crown Bay Marina, adds: "The events of 9/11 have not had a negative impact. The last time I looked [23 September] our reservations with deposits were over 40 percent higher than last year in the total amount of linear feet of dockage reserved. It is my opinion that the Caribbean will have a banner year this year, with more boats of all sizes. There appears to be a larger number of mega-yachts coming out of the Med this year. And, interestingly, in the past we always had strong demand for the larger yacht, but this year our seasonal reservations cross a broad range from the 40 to 50-foot family cruiser to the 200-foot mega-yacht."
General Manager Paul Warnock, Nanny Cay Marina, Tortola: "We have not noticed much decline. In fact, our boatyard is very busy hauling and launching vessels; most are charter boats, plus we still have our regular run of private vessels. Also I get about two calls per day requesting long-term marina dockage for the coming season, all of which I must turn away as we are fully booked.
"We did have one boatowner call to say that he could no longer afford his yard-storage bill due to the stock market situation, and would we put his vessel on the market."
Kristi Chesher, Antigua Yacht Club Marina: "I just got back from the Monaco Boat Show, and after talking to several sailing yacht and motoryacht captains planning on crossing to the Caribbean for the winter, I feel that we will have a good season! They may not be busy on charter but they will still be using our facilities and labor forces, and bringing some revenues into the island. Also, with the new insurance policy having to increase their premium for damage caused by 'acts of war', many of the boats will find a safe haven in the Caribbean.
"We are currently fully booked, with a waiting list for the Nicholson Boat Show to be held December 5 to 11. I have also had several bookings made for Antigua Sailing Week to be held in May 2002. So with any luck we will have a good season, and it may even extend into the spring, making it a more profitable year than we have seen over the last few years."
Debbie Stewart, Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout, Carriacou: "It's early to tell, but reluctance to fly might apply to our hurricane-season yacht storage customers, who usually return to their boats during November and December. Local workboats and cruising yachts staying south of the hurricane belt have kept the boatyard operating at capacity through the summer months, both before and after September 11.
"In the longer term, it's a given that continued impact on the world economy would affect our business and other marine-oriented businesses. Reduced confidence in retirement accounts and reduced return on investments create an environment not compatible with the lifestyle of most present and future Caribbean cruisers. Cruising yachts make up a large part of our customer base.
"At present, our fall/winter schedule is filled with preparing and launching our storage customers, along with other workboat and yacht haulout customers already booked. The spring season is a little far away to call, but we have been notified that many of the currently stored yachts will be returning, and many of the local boats haul during that period."
Donald Stollmeyer, Power Boats Mutual Facility, Trinidad: "Our yacht storage occupancy rate on land is very slightly above average at the present time [11 October] because boatowners have delayed their return at the end of the season. Our bookings are average for the next few months. Power Boats plans to introduce substantially lower rates in two categories early next year - reductions in both cost of haul and in laydays on land for working boats. We had planned to do this before events of September 11th, but September 11th reinforces this move."
Mack Robertson, Marina Carenero, Panama: "There is no doubt that the events of September 11 have changed the level of tourism, and business in general, here in Bocas del Toro. We are now to provide information to the Port Captain and Immigration about any vessel entering after business hours, and must provide a list of owners and their citizenship for those berthed at the marina. There has been a heightened security level in the Canal Zone, as would be expected. There has been a slowdown overall of boats moving within the country, and to and from other destinations. But at the same time, there has been an increase in requests for information from boats currently in the US - probably looking to finally get away."
"Dave Stone", Bequia Dive Adventures: "We have not had any cancellations. We only have one previous year in business to compare to, but I would say that the season looks as good as last year. Although I feel that some people may not travel for leisure while the active war is still going on, in early October we held a 30th high school reunion (in the US), and at least 14 people from the class are looking into coming to Bequia. Fear of flying was not in anyone's mind."
Claudia Nagel, Carriacou Silver Diving: "We have experienced a dramatic slow-down in the bookings we usually expect to come in by this time [6 October] for the next two or three months. Nevertheless, we are confident that things will get better over the next weeks, since our business attracts a very good percentage of return customers and our area generally is visited by the more adventurous and experienced traveller."
Don Street, Iolaire Enterprises: "Insurance rates had been bid down to the lowest in history before September 11th. But the disaster hit the reinsurance market so badly that in 2003 (contracts are already in place for 2002) yacht reinsurance will probably be a thing of the past. Rates are up again. The whole situation is made worse by the fact that in June independent insurers went belly-up, and the Hiscock Syndicate (a very big Lloyds syndicate) stopped writing yacht insurance in the second week of October. On renewal, boats insured by the Hiscock Syndicate will be looking for new 'homes', so the yacht insurance market will be tight. Getting good insurance at an affordable rate is not going to be easy. No broker can promise cheap rates; they can only try to minimize the increase."
Bruno Deverre, Cap Sud Yachtcharter, Guadeloupe: "Curiously, the trend in the yacht sales business seems to be better. It's as if people think 'well, let's take off and go sailing for a year - we've got nothing to lose!' Reports from Beneteau Yacht Sales in Cannes, La Rochelle, Friedrichshafen and recently at the Annapolis Boat Show were still very good. Here at Beneteau Caribbean, for which Cap Sud is the exclusive agent, we noted the same trend."
YACHT SUPPLIES AND SERVICES
Erik Norrie, CEO of New Nautical Coatings, USA: "Under the circumstances we have still seen a steady growth in our Caribbean business. Our antifouling paint sales are up, or fiberglass composites and resins are up, and our primers and other related products are up." Hasko Scheidt of Nautical Publications, Germany: "Our US chart sales dipped in September, but are up again and almost back to normal. In continental Europe, we didn't see any change in sales." Robbie Ferron, Budget Marine, St. Maarten: "The Budget Marine group will be planning and stocking to be ready for a reasonably good season, even though we might be more cautious on any extraordinary expenditures." Richard Szyjan, Managing Director, Turbulence Sails, Bequia: "I have stocked up early for the season as the prices for the material we use, mainly Dacron, could increase in a few months, although I am not sure that it will happen. Naturally we will continue to take care to avoid wasting too much material. And I hope to see a lot of 'stars and stripes' spinnakers flying at regattas this coming season!"
Commodore Díaz Escrich, Club Nautico Int'l Hemingway: "The October Hobie Cat Race between Key West and Marina Hemingway was cancelled, but meanwhile the Key West Sailing Club and our yacht club are organizing the Florida-to-Cuba Conch Republic Cup Race 2001 which starts on November 2nd. Marina Hemingway is also making arrangements for the Wahoo Fishing Tournament from 14 to 17 November, but as of 19 October there are few boats confirmed." Mirian Leffers, director, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: "More than 260 boats are expected for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 2002, March 1 to 3. This regatta attracts thousands of people, generates millions of dollars in international media exposure for St. Maarten, and contributes to all sectors of our economy. Pyewacket, one of the most competitive grand prix racing yachts from the Pacific, is already signed up, and a newly launched European J/120 is crossing the Atlantic specifically to participate and will stay in the Caribbean for the entire winter racing season."
José Miguel Díaz Escrich: "The current adversity must be a motivation for those in the marine tourism industry to work for the achievement of better results in the future."
Robbie Ferron: "A large danger in my view is that operators in our field are going to be planning on a poor season and not stocking up, with the result that when the demand suddenly arises there will be shortages which coincide with the Christmas season and the usual impossible rushes."
Heather Grant, Erika's Marine Services, Union Island: "We are trying to remain realistically optimistic. I'm sure that when winter hits the northern lands, many people will feel the urge to escape the snow and spend some time in our beautiful islands. Let's all do our best to prepare for this season in the usual way, making our premises and services the best they can possibly be."
These final comments are especially important. The signs would seem to indicate that the Caribbean, with its distance (not only in miles) from more troubled regions, and its relative ease of access from Europe and North America, may have an advantage this coming season.
But sailors and other visitors, more than ever, will expect "paradise" to live up to their expectations. Whether a hotel room, a marina or an anchorage, at the very minimum all "accommodations" must be clean and safe. And if they are friendly and affordable, too, all the better.
Although life has changed, it goes on - as it should. As Commodore Escrich says, "The Hemingway International Yacht Club makes a call to the Caribbean nautical community that we not allow terrorism to immobilize us or deter us from using one of the most precious resources that we have - the sea."
Nick Webster, Atlantic Yacht Shipping
Atlantic Yacht Shipping will be carrying some 50 yachts from France and the UK to the BVI's as usual this November.
However the normal shipment from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean has had to be postponed for the time being due to lack of demand. This service which has been operating now since December 1996 has been growing steadily year on year for both the large charter companies who provide the base cargo and the smaller outfits and private individuals who also wish to ship their yachts to the Caribbean for the winter season.
Atlantic Yacht Shipping does however expect to run a second additional westbound shipment from Europe in January 2002 to satisfy demand from our customers.
We are also now taking bookings for our eastbound services in April and May (departing after Antigua Race Week) to Northern Europe and the Med. With some 225 yachts taking part in the ARC this winter we are expecting space to be booked well in advance.
Interestingly we are experiencing an increasing requirement for the shipping of motoryachts from Europe to the Caribbean. We also note more enquiries from potential buyers of second-hand charter boats requiring carriage to Europe from the Caribbean charter hubs - perhaps due to greater availability of good bargains?
Prices for these routes remain static, the only increase is in insurance premiums which have been slightly affected by world events.
Kristi Chesher, Antigua Yacht Club Marina
I just got back from the Monaco Boat Show and after talking to several sailing yachts and motor yachts Captains planning on crossing to the Caribbean for the winter season, I feel that we will have a good season! They may not be busy on charter but they will be using our facilities, labor forces and bring some revenues into the Island. Also with the new insurance policy having to increase their premium for damage caused by "acts of war" many of the boats will find a safe haven in the Caribbean. We are currently fully booked with a waiting list for the Nicholson Boat Show at our marina "Antigua Yacht Club Marina" to be held December 5-11th. I have also had several bookings made for Antigua Sailing Week to be held in May. So with any luck we will hopefully have a good season and may even extend into the spring making it a more profitable year than we have seen over the last few years.
Birgit Schlemper, Wallace & Co. - Fishing & Boat Supplies
Will the horrible events of September 11th and the current global situation affect a small island like Bequia? Most of us would answer this question with "YES".
Modern Telecommunication let us take part and be part of any major event on our globe. Being part can and will change attitudes, goals, priorities and hence the daily life. But to what extent and in which way these changes will take place is much harder to predict. But there are a few mainstream developments where we will find a general trend.
Bequia depends like many Caribbean islands mainly on tourism. There are two main groups of tourists: those who have to take a plane in order to reach this part of the world and those who travel on their own yachts. People living on their own boats are fairly independent and can move swiftly and individually. For yacht owners Bequia will still be as an attractive destination as the years before. We might even see an increase in visitors from this sector as the American islands or even the Mediterranean are being avoided.
But we will definitely see a decrease in the number of tourists who have to reach these islands by plane. There is a widespread attitude not to leave home too far these days as further developments in the current crisis can rapidly change mobility and needs at home and we observe a general uneasiness using planes as transportation. Airlines had to lay off a considerable amount of their workers. Some Airlines had to file for bankruptcy or were taken over by others. We anticipate higher airfares due to major investments in security and less competition. Spain for instance is expecting a boom for their tourism industry in the coming season as the Europeans rather stay in their home turf than to venture out too far. This will definitely affect the Hotel industry and the bareboat charters in our region. The businesses related to these sectors like taxi drivers, grocery stores, day charters and chandleries will suffer as well. Bareboat Charter as tourism revenue should not be underestimated as they spend more freely than the boat owner on a tight budget. Yachting supplies have experienced in the last couple of years a drop in prices in our region. This favorable development for the yachting community is a result of more duty free concessions given as well as a tougher competition. But the European still has to cope with a very strong US Dollar. The spending attitude in general had already changed before the events on September 11th. A global recession was lingering then like now as a dark cloud and people focus more on price comparison and evaluation of their needs.
What can we do to help promote these islands and stabilize the economy? No one, especially in these uncertain times, wants to live with fear or anxiety.
Make sure that the tourist is coming into a safe environment where he is welcome and feels well taken care of. Crime control is essential. The momentary development shows unmistakably clear how high safety ranges in our priorities.
We also have to be competitive. There must be some incentives to visit these islands instead of others. Litter or noise pollution is a definite "turn off". Keep these islands clean. Promote the local beauty, provide professional services and supply information about local facilities. Prices and services have to be competitive. We have to compete with duty free destinations and high volume islands.
And last not least, give the tourist a chance to get here. These small islands still suffer from exorbitant rates and time-consuming schedules in the connecting flights to international airports. Despite all modern communication it is still difficult if not impossible to book in advance from European countries a connecting flight to one of the smaller islands.
These are only a few outlines about a situation that is gaining complexity with every further development. But if we stay sensible and keep our presence of mind we can meet the challenges ahead.
Brian Pickton, Aboard The Legend
As it happens I asked this question of the operator of a charter fleet only yesterday. The upcoming cruising season looks pretty grim from a chartering outlook with the charter operators here [St. Lucia] holding their breath waiting to see how bad it is going to be. Right now he reports that while the Christmas season looks as good as ever what they are not seeing is bookings coming in from the U.S. The bulk of their business is European, particularly from Germany. Europeans are complaining about the high exchange rate with the US dollar. They are not seeing bookings coming in for the fall season and if the boats don't do 20 weeks of chartering they will not be profitable to operate. That profitability is very much in doubt at this time.
I also spoke to another individual this weekend who is an hospitality industry development consultant involved with developing several projects here in the Caribbean. One development had a minor set back as a result of the September 11 attack as a result of several private investors backing out, thinking that the tourist season was going to suffer badly. The institutional investors have stood firm. The developer of this project who is a complete professional has already sourced alternative funding, but it gives you an idea of the thinking of individuals. In addition, The Rex, and the Royal St. Lucian are currently closed, the Jalousie Hilton is up for sale and the Hyatt is operating at about 40 % occupancy and several other hotels are looking at massive lay offs, closing or receivership. Of course that is more of a reflection on land based tourism.
On the water side operators who have received deposits for charters this season are waiting to see if the guests will follow through or walk away from their deposits. I have not heard of any cruisers cancelling their sailing plans, which is what you would expect since they are not flying. Speaking to a small guest house operator who has been busy speaking to people in the US, she is expecting a slow season because for Americans the fear it appears is not of flying per se, but of getting caught abroad if there is a terrorist attack and not being able to return home if America closes its air space again. For Europeans the complaint has been that the dollar is too high making travel to St. Lucia which has a reputation for being expensive prohibitive.
The government of St. Lucia has announced that it is forming a task force for the purpose of promoting St. Lucia abroad while curtailing travel on the part of government officials in an austerity drive in recognition of the impact the attack is going to have on tourism here. The government here has also taken steps to bolster the sailing industry by changing the visa permit to 6 months upon entry and a free six month renewal. There will be a small fee based on the size of the boat, but St. Lucia's previous policy of allowing a 6 week visit for free but then charging $100 E.C. per person for every three week extension is a thing of the past. To promote sailing tourism the government at the same time has revoked the old tariff regime dealing with yachts. Now there will be a 2% fee based on the value of the boat to register it here. In addition charter operators will pay a modest annual licensing fee with legislation based upon the model currently used in Grenada. You should be receiving a press release from Cuthbert Didier the Rodney Bay Marina manager who should be given the credit for spear heading the drive for the changes in the legislation. These steps may come too late if the charter industry itself suffers a further collapse this year but should benefit the country in the long run. The principle competition in the charter boat industry here comes from Martinique and on the service side from Trinidad, as you would expect.
In summary I would suggest that we will see a near total loss of US land based tourists, and a greatly diminished number of European tourists and a very slow charter boat season, at least until Christmas. Our contact with the ARC, which has had an historic high number of applicants does not expect to see a diminishment on that front, with 225 accepted registrants. That may be the high point of St. Lucia's sailing season. Until the blow falls on the terrorists and our American friends are able to relax as a result of the perceived threat becoming greatly diminished tourism will remain slow. The impact of the attack can be expected to linger for several seasons because many Americans, who have no living memory of an attack of this magnitude on their nation have been traumatised by it. Europeans with their long history of war on and in their countries, particularly the British and Germans, are outraged by the attack, but not so fearful of travel. For them the issue is more of an economic one.
Steve Black, Caribbean 1500 Rally
We have 53 boats and may gain a few. Little effect from the recent events.
Lucy de Troncoso, Marina Chavon
Our reservations manager informed us that business were kind of slow the first weeks, but now we are getting normal, and for December we already are pretty busy and these days we are receiving a lot of requests.
Dave Stone, Bequia Dive Adventures
Sorry I am a day late with this, but I wanted to wait till I could check out the flying for myself. I flew to Denver yesterday, and I have never been in that long a line to check in. It was also the fastest moving line I have every been in at the airport. The plane was almost full, more then I would have expected with the number of daily flights. .
We have not had any cancellations. We only have one year to compare to but I would say that the season looks as good as last year.. In fact I have had several people looking to come to Bequia to get away from the recent events. I feel that some people may not travel for leisure while the active war is still going on from the idea that "Now is not the time for me to go out and enjoy myself while the military is fighting for my freedom to do so". They may stay home out of respect for what's happening and wanting to stay connected to it.
Last week we held a 30 year high school reunion. It was a small group, but in talking with people about what we are doing now at least 14 people from the class are looking into coming to Bequia. Fear of flying was not in anyone's mind.
At the present time we are not taking any special steps or price changes, but are always looking for more guests.
Edward Hamilton, Ministry of Rum
I wouldn't worry about the cruisers, hell people want to get out of here now, more than ever. I see the airline traffic being the big problem for the islands although the airlines reported today that they are 85 - 90 % back. But they didn't say whether that was flights or passengers, the former is more likely than the latter. Tourism in the [US] cities is dead and there are a lot of deals although the theaters that I've been to were full. Restaurants are a lot slower. But on the bright side, a lot of people are looking to the Caribbean as a safe place compared to Asia, where Americanos stand out like sore thumbs, or Europe where anything could happen. The good news here is that mortgages are down to 5.5 on 15 year fixed loans so real estate is heating up in spite of the stock market.
Liz Theiler, Yacht Mystique
Re: [Asking cruisers] have your cruising plans changed due to the tragic events of September 11th: it seems that this is essentially asking how has this affected your pocketbook? It seems very insensitive and superficial to think that the effect of the tragedy is cruisers spending less money on taxis or restaurants. Life will go on but it will NOT be the same! To simply say life will go on - how shallow it does plunge into the depths... People are still in shock I just looked at the photos in the Commemorative Issue of Newsweek and realized how little of the damage, and dust and ash and effect I had seen. We American cruisers are still groping. A fellow cruiser did mention that she felt there was more of a community spirit among cruisers in Mt. Hartman than Hog Island and that we are more American flagged vessels here. Perhaps someone has already written on the fact that the effect is intangible. I am just jotting a few points: 1. Mt. Hartman Bay came to a standstill after the first tower was hit - cruisers flocked to the television sets in Mt. Hartman and Prickly Bay. It was noiseless - our hunger for the news could not be satisfied. A cruiser made several announcements on VHF 16 that day of updates from his TV. Watching TV in Mt. Hartman and Prickly Bay went on for days. People continue to listen more frequently to Arm Forces radio and to watch CNN when possible. 2. There was a cruisers organized prayer service at Mt. Hartman Bay and another organized in Prickly Bay here tears ran down cruiser's eyes and cruisers hugged one another for support. 3. Grenada dedicated Sunday (Sept. 16?) as a day of prayer. We attended the Church service and the intention of the service was clear. 4. There was a collection for the NY Times Media Fund by Donna on Windwitch. I understand she sent you an article. The Boatyard Restaurant allowed a cover charge to be donated to the fund, this was organized by Bryan of NightWinds and over $500 US was collected for the same fund. 4. People are still hearing from friends, I have a friend who works for American airlines out of Logan in Boston. She e-mailed she was not at the airport and after talking to my coworkers, I am glad I was not. They are in shock. My brother, a teacher had a former student and basketball player friend of his son die in the tragedy. 5 A cruiser flew out of Mt. Hartman at 6 a.m. on September 11th and reached San Juan before her plane was grounded. We worried with her husband. She spent four days in Puerto Rico. She is not returning until October 10th but she might give insight into the feelings of an airline passenger.
José Miguel Díaz Escrich, Club Naútico Internacional Hemingway
Immediately after the terrorists attacks, the 105 docked boats in Marina Hemingway began an exodus and in few days there were only 77 boats. Today there are in Marina Hemingway 103 boats. Simultaneously there was a decrease in the arrival of boats from Sept 11th until Sept 18th, 24 boats have arrived to Marina Hemingway. From those 24, 19 are from United States. In this low season we had in M.H. monthly around 45 or 50 boats.
The celebration of nautical events has been affected. The Hobie Cat Race was cancelled between Key West-Varadero-Marina Hemingway. Meanwhile, the Key West Sailing Club and our Yacht Club work together in the organization of the Conch Republic Cup Race 2001 to be held next Nov 2nd. In M. Hemingway we are working for all the arrangements with the 4th Wahoo Fishing Tournament, but until now there are few participant boats confirmed.
Diplomatic sources and experts coincide in pointing out that the neighbouring countries to United States in a near future will be beneficiary by the visits of American sailors who will look for a destiny for their holidays without inconveniences that could occur on board of the airplanes.
Although in Florida it has been announcing the reduction of a 70% in the prices of the Hotels, in Cuba so far so god we have not known the special prices policy. Until Nov 15th, we are in the low season so we have to wait a litter bit more to know definitions to this matter. Yes, it is true that there has been a decrease in the number of tourists that arrive to Cuba and specialists in the subject say that Cuba will not arrive to 2 million of tourists this year.
We have experience with the struggle against terrorism. Five years ago, we had explosive attacks in Havana hotels and these of course caused damage and a death of an Italian tourist. The coordinated action of the Cuban services of security has not allowed that new action were carried out. Those terrorists actions did not stop our objectives of continue working in favor of the development of the nautical tourism in Cuba.
The Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba makes a call to the Caribbean Nautical Tourism to prevent and not allow that the terrorism may stop, immobilize us in the exploitation in one of the most precious resources that we have THE SEA. We should be united to preserve the sea as a free territory of terrorism.
That the current adversity be a motivation to work for the achievement of better results in the future.
Paul Gravel, SVG Air
For SVG Air we are seeing so far a 30% or greater fall off in business over last year since Sept 11th, 2001.
We have also been warned that our insurance cost will increase by as much as 100% and if we want hijack and war risk coverage this will be at 400% increase. We plan to try and market us out of this slump since their is much else that we can do and increase our level of customer service.
David Rooks, eco-tours guide
September 11th. was a disaster in many terrible ways. The effects on tourism are equally bad and may be long term. People are afraid to fly, to sail and even to travel on cruise ships. Those who do are either brave or defiant and some are jumpy.
As far as doing something about it. This is a West Indian problem. It is the accommodation section (the hotels) and governments need to initiate a general advertising programme to say that of all the destinations, we are the safe one. Of course it would only take one incident to change that image, such as more riots in Jamaica and possible fighting between political opponents in Trinidad.
If everyone will exercise good sense and restraint we will have something to play with in a programme to get the visitors moving in our direction. But the situation is at the moment shaky (not volatile yet).
As of this morning, 8th. October, Trinidad and Tobago has an effective government. Three cabinet members have quit the UNC government and joined the Opposition. Today is a day of decision which will tell how adult and wise a manner we will handle this matter. Today is wait and see.
If the World and the Caribbean settle down, we should jointly blitz the European, US and Canadian markets about the safe, relaxed, and tranquil atmosphere of this destination, this region.
Missy Heylen, GYE
My "expert" opinion is as good as the next one I guess, as guessing is a large part of the prediction.
Tourism from the US will decline as the recession has hit the economy - that was pretty well established before Sep 11th but the terrorism and the declaration of war against terrorism pretty much sealed the fate of the economy. Patriotic Americans sealed their purses so they will be able to weather "worse" days. The market really diminished people's worth and it scares many into tightening their belts.
Now Europe.... the dollar will lose its strength (recession et al) which will mean that Europeans now can afford to come. BUT depending on how much the situation in the Middle East will stink and how the European countries will be affected... we also might lose the casual tourist. If the middle east heats up the "yachties" big and small will need a safe place and the Caribbean might be it.
Conclusion: I really don't know -we don't know ahead of time - I hope that more yachties will come - and I have tightened the belt in all areas so if it does not pick up that GYE can survive.
Pippa McGrevy, Yacht Stella by Starlight
I spoke to about 30 cruisers over the weekend and 'life goes on' was the overall response. I was told that the decline in the stock market will effectively cut the amount of money that some cruisers can spend in the islands so they will have to limit taxis and restaurant meals. A few were worried about the future increase in air fares as that would then affect their own trips back home and visits by their families and friends. Only one U.S. flagged vessel will be changing their cruising plans as a result of Sept. 11th. They had intended to visit the northern Pacific countries, many of which are Muslim, but are now considering the Med. All the other cruisers I interviewed will be continuing with their winter plans: cruising the Caribbean, going on to the Panama Canal or central America, or returning home to the States at the end of their time out.
John and Melodye Pompa, Yacht Second Millennium
John and I will reply separately to your questions, since we may have differing opinions.
Based on what I have heard from other cruisers currently in the Caribbean, 11 September may have two small effects. Those cruisers who are out for only a year or two, having taken a leave of absence from the workplace and planned to live on their savings/investments, may have to return to the States/Canada earlier than originally planned, if the stock market does not fully recover and stay recovered. I believe that there are relatively few of this type of cruiser so the impact on marine tourism from this will be small, if not negligible.
The other comment I have heard is that there will be fewer trips home because of the concern with airline travel. Part of that is an economic issue and part is availability of flights with airlines cutting back and part is the hassle of added security measures at US and Canadian airports, but most of that concern is the security itself of flying. This applies, I think, to both cruisers already here as well as to their friends and families who may have planned to visit and are now rethinking those plans. Again, I believe this will have little impact on marine tourism, except in those small places like Mayreau and the Tobago Cays, which may not feel the effect if chartering continues at a significant rate (I think that rate is already down for 2001 even before 11 September and have no reason to believe that we will see more charter boats the remainder of this year and into 2002).
We have had reports of some anti-American activity in Trinidad from their small Moslem population - signs and the like, nothing violent or personal or demonstrative in nature. With the current political situation in Trinidad, this may become an issue, but Trinidad is already becoming a not-very-safe place for cruisers in Chagauramas - more boat break-ins, more muggings on the street, etc. The government and YSATT do not seem to be able to manage that stuff so I have no reason to believe that, if the anti-American activity increases, government will manage that either. Does that mean that cruisers will not go to Trinidad for their haul-outs, etc.? Maybe, but Grenada is already taking business away from Trinidad. I think though that if the anti-cruisers activity and anti-American activity continues, this, more than the two items cited above, will have an impact on the marine tourism sector.
End of Melodye
I agree with Melodye's comment re: anti-American sentiment. If we start seeing indications of anti-Americanism here or anywhere, we will leave and go some place else. So far, in Grenada at least, that has not happened. But, I will not stay somewhere where the people, even a few, have anti-American sentiment. I'm sure many others feel the same way. The positive reaction that we've seen so far makes me feel good. The Boatyard Pub here at Prickly has been wonderful!
Tourism, which has been lagging, is for sure going to take a big hit because of air travel. Also, if anti-American sentiment starts, word will get back to the U.S. and that will further curtail tourists coming to the Caribbean.
Overall global economy is already affecting the islands and will even more in the future.
Although I have heard no one mention it yet, cruise ship traffic may also be affected; remember the Achille Lauro incident in 1985. Cruise ships are big, sitting ducks and carry a lot more passengers than airplanes.
I know that I am not bloody likely to get on an airplane and go ANYWHERE right now.
Donald Stollmeyer, Power Boats
Our occupancy rate on land is very slightly above average at the present time. This makes sense because as we would expect, people have delayed their return at the end of the season. Our bookings are average for the next few months. Power Boast plans to introduce substantially lower rates in two categories early next year - reductions in both cost of haul and in laydays on land for working boats. We had planned to do this before events of Sept 11th, but I would say Sept 11th reinforces this move. Sept 11th worries center around a combination of security when travelling and decreased values in the stock market. Time will tell how cruisers are affected.
Linda A. C. Williams, Port St. Charles
Please note that the greater percentage of our clients come from the UK. There has been no change in our bookings whatsoever. Our homeowners tend to come during the winter period, especially for Christmas, and If anything, they want to come here even sooner, because they want to get away from it all. Interest in property sales has remained the same for this time of year.
We were already fully booked for the Christmas period and other peak times of the year, and these bookings have not changed, giving us no reason to change our prices here.
Bruno Deverre, Capsud
In fact nobody really know what will happen. Big companies plan to cut jobs (see Sunsail / Stardust communique to day on www.boating-industry.com), airlines react differently (American Airlines declared promotion on flight ticket for this winter to Caribbean versus Air France increase flight rates from Paris !)... Reaction are at the level of the evenements... out of reason.
It is true that we noted some delay in the reservation since sept 11 but not so much. We feel that clients will book later when things will become "quieter". Last minute booking (less than one month before departure) are normal and booking for Xmas are still OK.
The sales for "à la cabine" are down but standard crew client seems reasonably OK.
Here, at the Tourism board of Guadeloupe, we expect that French West Indies will be a solution for client who still want to travel and no longer can think to go to African or even Asian countries. This is the trend we felt at the annual travel Broker show which was held in Deauville, France last September.
On the Yacht sale business the trend seems curiously to be better. As if people think "well, this is a world drama, let's get off and go sailing for a year", nothing to loose ! Reports from Beneteau Yacht sales in Cannes, La Rochelle, Friedrishafen and recently Annapolis were still very good, so ... Here at Beneteau Caribbean which Cap Sud is the Exclusive Agent, we noted the same trend.
More demand on big yacht over 39' and many request for year off holidays for 2002 or 2003.
That's what I can say. This is only a feeling among another in this terrible and uncertain period.
Nadine Massaly, Dockwise Yacht Transport
At that time we have no problem. But I thing it is a bit early to get a real idea, because of the low season.
Narendra Sethia, Barefoot Yacht Charters
When the news of the 11th September terrorist attacks was first broadcast, I was sitting in a small hotel room 300 miles east of Pakistan, in the Western Himalayas. Apart from being horrified and disturbed by the images I saw on television, I was extremely concerned about the possible effects on our business and I immediately strode down to the Lower Bazaar in search of an internet cafe. I wrote to my business partner, Mary Barnard, that I was very worried about the potentially disastrous consequences on the Caribbean charter industry and I suggested that we would have to have a complete re-think about our marketing and pricing strategies for the forthcoming season. Mary responded that she did not feel that we would suffer any adverse effects and all I could do was to tell her that I hoped that her optimism was well-founded but feared that it was not.
Two weeks later, on my return to the office, I was surprised to see that, during my absence, inquires and bookings had continued to flow in, and, at the time of writing (4th October) we have had only one cancellation - and this client re-scheduled his November trip for January 2002.
Projections for our 4th fiscal quarter (01 September through 30 November) indicate that our gross sales will be 20% down on the previous year but I would attribute this as much to global economic conditions as to the 11th September incidents. In fact whilst September and October sales were down, November's are currently pretty well the same as they were last year and much of our November business has been taken subsequent to 11th September.
Future sales for December, January and February are currently approximately 10% lower than I would have hoped for at this time of year but we have also noticed a trend in recent years for more last-minute bookings and so this could change.
As things stand right now, we estimate that we will see a 10 to 15% reduction in sales over the following 6 months but hope that our pricing policy will help. We plan no rate increases for 2002, and we are also offering free sailing days and substantial last-minute discounts. We have also made strident efforts over the past few months to increase the European share of our business and this is now paying dividends.
Our view is that there has never been a safer time to fly than right now, and I think that folks will realise that. Further, in the public perception, the Caribbean is a very safe destination and, finally, as winter approaches, I believe that there are an awful lot of people who will want to escape the "real world" and spend some quality time in paradise.
Thus, whilst I feel that that there may be some small, short-term effect, I do not think that the Caribbean charter business will suffer long-term effects. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, far more important and far more detrimental to our business are the matters of cost and ease of air access.
Mack Robertson, Marina Carenero
There is no doubt that the events of Sept. 11 have changed the level of tourism, and business in general, here in Bocas del Toro. I will list some of the recent changes:
1. We are now to provide information to the Port Captain and Immigration about any vessel entering after business hours . We also must provide a list of owners and their citizenship for those berthed at the marina and the guests staying in our cabins.
2. Banks are requiring positive proof of legitimate businesses and verifying corporate documents and status.
3. Most tourists cancelled reservations for October and very few making new reservations for later in the year.
4. Panamanians are afraid to fly on their airline carriers to in-country destinations.
5. A slowdown overall of boats moving within the country and to and from other destinations.
6. An increase in requests for information from boats currently in the US. (Probably looking to finally get away.)
Most of the above items do not directly affect cruising boaters. We do expect that there will be a greater vigilance in the coastal areas. There has been a heightened security level in the canal zone (as would be expected).
I believe that overall, we have seen an increase in pleasure boat traffic to Bocas del Toro this year. This is primarily due to another marina opening up. The bulk of this traffic is from people who are looking for a safe place to leave their boat while they return to their homeland(s) to visit or transact business.
With more facilities, there will be more boats. We expect this trend to continue. With the competition has come lower prices ($5 - $6/ft/mo). As both marinas fill up in the year(s) ahead, we expect prices to rise to their former levels ($7 - $8/ft/mo). Boaters arriving here are now "shopping" for a bargain, but as with all bargains, the intangibles should be considered in addition to "the bottom line". Reputation, location and facilities are still being developed.
We do see an increase in the service sector with the increased traffic. This area has been so isolated for so long t hat most technicians and mechanics went to the cities for work. The boating end of the technical spectrum is so specialized that we are seeing specialists of expatriate origin arriving to fill the gap. This is a much needed and welcome development. We do expect to see representatives of marine equipment and services start to show more interest in this area very soon.
There has been some talk and some action on the charter front. This area is perfect for chartering, but initial efforts have been rebuffed by the "biggies" due to a lack of knowledge of the area. This will change.
Jeremy Wyatt, World Cruising Club (ARC)
To date the ARC remains oversubscribed for 2001.
We have just published the 2002 entry pack and already have 5 entries, plus 20 transfers from 2001. It is too early to say whether the trend for next year is up or down.
We have had 2 direct withdrawals from ARC01 - one where a relative had been killed in the WTC disaster, and a second over concerns on investments.
Robbie Ferron, Budget Marine
In general terms I believe that the consumption patterns of most metropolitan countries in relation to the "911" incident is not going to be reduced by a large percentage. There are really no hard facts to support the hype that people are going to continue to be afraid to fly or to vacation.
The bigger issue is the recession was already oncoming at the time. This is likely to affect certain sections of the tourist industry where the necessary belt tightening of the middle classes is going to play a role. I do not believe however that the marine industry is going to be much affected. In the mild recession of 1986/87 there was no evidence of the marine industry being affected, and there is even a theory that certain groups of well off yachtsmen are more likely to take their boats to the Caribbean in those periods when the entrepreneurial options are limited. In other words:" when there is no money to be made up north, we may as well go and play in the south"
The larger danger in my view is that operators in our field are going to be planning on a poor season and not stocking up with the result that when the demand suddenly arises there will be shortages which coincide with the Christmas season and the usual impossible rushes.
The Budget Marine group will be planning and stocking to be ready for a reasonably good season ,even though we might be more cautious on any extraordinary expenditures.
George DeSalvo, The Bonaire Reporter
The Marine Scene in Bonaire has been more active in 2001 than 2000. 2000 was the first year there was a charge for moorings ($5.60/day) and many boats who had been resident for years departed. But the new year saw a turnaround and arrivals are up about 21% year to date. Boats are bigger and crews more affluent on average. The median stay has dropped from about 3 weeks to 2, but the greater number of boats has meant more "occupied mooring-days."
There's been no drop in arrivals or slip/mooring reservations since the 9-11 tragedy. Perhaps it's too early to notice. Enrollment for the Bonaire Regatta, starting next week, has had no cancellations. Hoteliers, however, have seen some cancellations and flight schedules have been disrupted. Half of Bonaire's tourists are European so the impact may not be as bad as some other islands who depend on Americans for a larger part of their visitors. After a good growth rate through August, a weaker tourist season is expected for the non-marine and cruise ship sector.
The Marine Scene in Bonaire has been more active in 2001 than 2000. 2000 was the first year there was a charge for moorings ($5.60/day) and many boats who had been resident for years departed. But the new year saw a turnaround and arrivals are up about 21% year to date. Boats are bigger and crews more affluent on average. The median stay has dropped from about 3 weeks to 2, but the greater number of boats has meant more "occupied mooring-days." There's been no drop in arrivals or slip/mooring reservations since the 9-11 tragedy. Perhaps it's too early to notice. Enrollment for the Bonaire Regatta, starting next week, has had no cancellations.
Hoteliers, however, have seen some cancellations and flight schedules have been disrupted. Half of Bonaire's tourists are European so the impact may not be as bad as some other islands who depend on Americans for a larger part of their visitors. After a good growth rate through August, a weaker tourist season is expected for the non-marine and cruise ship sector.
Donald Street, Iolaire Enterprises
The scene as I see it (or have been told), I did not make the Newport show as my flight was cancelled in London just 5 minutes before take off. The Newport Show had a fair number of empty booths. Exhibitors could not get there and not too many people visited the show and sales were slow.
In the Mediterranean a number of the 12 metres did not race. Ones that were either American owned or American Chartered. A few American boats cancelled St. Tropez (e.g. Rebecca) but it was a good regatta in both Cannes and St. Tropez. A number of Skippers said their winter plans were on hold until further decisions were made.
A number of sailors who are friends in the charter brokerage business said their friends reported the phone had not rung since September 11th.
Annapolis show attendance was down [Editor's note: Another source said attendance was average], but people were buying. Beneteau reported good sales, others reported satisfactory sales.
Insurance rates have been bid down to the lowest in history before September 11th disaster. Most underwriters were talking of 10% rise in the rates. Now with the September 11th disaster the reinsurance market was so badly hit that in 2003 (contracts are already in place for 2002) yacht reinsurance will probably be a thing of the past. Rates are up again. The whole situation is made worse by the fact that in June independent insurers went belly up and the Hiscock Syndicate (a very big Lloyds syndicate) stopped writing yacht insurance last week. So, on renewal boats insured by the Hiscock Syndicate will be looking for new homes (ones insured by independent insurers have found new homes but at substantial increase in rates). So the yacht Insurance market will be tight. No broker can promise cheap rates. Rather they can only try to minimise the increase!!
Hurricane insurance north of 12° 40' North may be possible but I don't know where. Everyone should read their policy carefully as some underwriters will give NO insurance north of 12° 40' North, and others will cover north of 12° 40' for all claims EXCEPT hurricanes/ Boats that have that type of coverage can cruise the Caribbean, be covered, as long as when the hurricane approaches they head south and get below 12° 40'. Other underwriters will give hurricane coverage north of 12° 40' once they ascertain that the boat has a really good plan to secure during hurricanes. BUT they will insist on a 5% deductible on all claims including total loss.
Getting GOOD (no good getting a cheap rate then the underwriter goes belly up. At least a dozen have done that in the 46 years I have been in the Caribbean.) Insurance at an affordable rate is not going to be easy.
Heather Grant, Erika's yacht services
My business in Union Island is not one that takes advance bookings. We count on the yachts, both privately owned and chartered, that enter Clifton Harbour in Union Island while cruising the Grenadines. Once they are here, they take advantage of the services that we offer, like our laundry service, internet access, telephone and fax service, bicycle rental, etc.
At this stage, in the early days of October, we are finding business very slow, but this is not unusual. By the middle of December we will know if the terrible events of September 11 are going to affect us adversely.
Of course, we hear many stories and rumours. I understand that many of the resorts in the region have received cancellations. Some are delaying their season openings. What I am not sure about is whether tourists from Europe will refrain from travel as much as we hear Americans are doing. Here in Union the majority of our visitors are from Europe.
There are so many factors affecting tourism now. Apart from the fear that these attacks have engendered, the cutbacks in many airlines resulting in fewer flights available will certainly affect us. The economic climate in the US and Europe is not wonderful at the moment, so this factor must be added to the recent violence.
At the moment, we are trying to remain realistically optimistic. I'm sure that when winter hits the northern lands, many people will feel the urge to fly away from the snow and spend some time in our beautiful Grenadines. Let us all do our best to prepare for this season in the usual way, making our premises and services the best they can possibly be.
Jérôme Touzé, The Moorings Martinique
This is too early to say something but yes this will affect our business as the entire Tourism business in the US badly suffers Today, the booking is still good but if the situation goes on this will affect the bookings and we could have to reduce our activity. I'm optimistic as the Caribbean could be considered as a very safe destination and Martinique with the French "Vigipirat plan" is in a very good position.
Erik Norrie, New Nautical Coatings
We have not taken any special initiatives to increase business in the Caribbean sector other than our normal coarse of advertising and sales calls. However, under the circumstances we have still seen a steady growth in our Caribbean business. Our antifouling paint sales are up, or fiberglass composites and resins are up, and our primers and other related products are up.
New Nautical Coatings, Inc. as well as the majority of US based businesses hearts go out to those involved in the tragedy of 911. We thank our strong customer base in the Caribbean for there unwavering support.
Terry & Linda Billings, Budget Marine Bosun's Locker
We believe that the cruising community will pretty much carry on as usual here, there may be some financial restrictions for those relying on investment income due to the falls on the stock markets but they were happening before the WTC events and now seem to be recovering to some extent. We would also expect an increase of Trans-Atlantic cruisers this year due to the proximity of events to the Mediterranean. Most cruisers winter in places like Turkey, Cyprus and North Africa none of which would be all that comfortable right now. There may also be a reduction in numbers going through to the Pacific, after all, where do you go when you get to the Far East? What ever happens we plan to carry on as we would in a normal year, we have not had too drastic a reduction in turnover except in the last week or so which is always very quiet anyway. Our prices will remain as reasonable as we can make them and we do not plan any special increases only those that would occur in the normal course of events. One difficulty we have already encountered is some delays in shipment from the U.S.A.
We are hopeful of a good and profitable season.
Dennis Kissman, Marina Management Services
I would like to concentrate on Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas. The last time I looked on 9/23 our reservations with deposits were over 40% higher than last year in the total amount of linear feet of dockage reserved. The events of 9/11 has not had a negative impact in fact reservations remain strong today and I am sure well above last year. Our dock pricing structure remained the same as last year. It is my opinion that the Caribbean will have a banner year this year with more boats of all sizes. I think the USVI may benefit particularly well because of the events of 9/11 because it is a US territory under the same security parameters as the mainland. We provide customs and immigration service an are urging our customers to make sure their papers are in order to avoid problems upon entering the USVI particularly crew members with foreign passports. We understand the immigration laws will be strictly enforced and will be posting on our website www.crownbay.com the latest immigration regulations as they become available to assist boaters coming to St. Thomas. There appears to be a larger number of mega yachts coming out of the Med this year and I can only assume it is because of the unrest in the area. Interestingly enough this year our seasonal reservations cross a broad range from the forty to fifty foot family cruiser to the 200 foot mega yacht. In the past we always had strong demand for the larger yacht but I am particularly happy with our smaller yachts. I think this is partly due to the lack of severe storms the past few years. When people hear that an island has been devastated by a hurricane they assume nothing is left we know this is not always the case but it is hard to get the word out as a result the family cruising boat goes elsewhere.
Pam Ratti for Millie and Clint Hazell, HazECO Tours
For HazECO Tours, the coming tourist season looks good, primarily due to the cruise ships returning to St. Vincent.
To stimulate business we will offer Jeep Safari tours, in addition to our other excursions. Also, with the opening of a new office in Bequia, we hope to entice Grenadines visitors to come see mainland St. Vincent.
For this time of year, bookings are not significantly lower; we don't anticipate any price changes.
Paul D. Warnock, Nanny Cay Marina
With respect to our Marina and Boatyard I must say that we have not noticed much of a decline in business. In fact our yard is very busy Hauling and launching vessels, though mainly charter boats we still have our regular run of private vessels wishing to get hauled in preparation for the season. We did however have one incident yesterday when a boat owner called us to say that they could no longer afford the yard storage bill due to the stock market situation and would we organise to put their vessel on the market.
With respect to our marina I would say that I get on average about 2 calls per day requesting long term dockage for the season, all of which I must turn away as we are fully booked. In fact at the moment our marina is over booked.
I do hope the charter companies do OK as they are a major part of the infrastructure here at Nanny Cay, but asking around most of the companies here do not seem to have been hit to bad. So far anyway.
We are not altering our rate structure at all this year and are still going ahead with planned events such as the BVI Regatta.
Debbie Stewart, Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout
At Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout it is early to assess short term impact of the September 11 Terrorist attack. Since there is not a major charter company based in Carriacou the reluctance to fly would primarily apply to our hurricane season storage customers who return to their boats mostly during November and December. Local workboats and cruising yachts staying south of the hurricane belt have kept the boatyard operating at capacity through the summer months, before and after September 11.
In the longer term, it's a given that continued impact on the world economy would effect our business, and other marine oriented businesses. Reduced confidence in retirement accounts and return on investments create an environment not compatible with the lifestyle of most present and future Caribbean cruisers. Cruising Yachts make up a large part of the customer base.
At present, the fall and winter schedule is filled with preparing and launching our storage customers, along with other workboat and yacht haulout customers already booked. The spring season is a little far away to call, but we have been notified that many of the stored yachts will be returning. Also, many of the local boats haul during that period.
As of now I know of no changes to the future business and growth plans of Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout as a result the September attack or other growth factors.
Paul Candela, Tursiops Caraibes
I have spoken with professionals bare boats and charter and at this time, few reservations have been cancelled but as they usually work with the European customers, they think that the next season won't be too bad. The US customers are not used to come in Martinica, preferring St Lucia or the other Lesser Antilles islands.
However everyone is wondering about what the future will bring, and they are mainly worrying about the aircraft companies that have big financial problems, because : no flights, no customers!! Caribbean islands may become a safer destination than the Middle East or Far East countries, and also safer than USA for European people (so we hope!!). In fact they may replace these "could be" dangerous part of the world.
Claudia Nagel, Carriacou Silver Diving
Short-term effects of the tragic events of 11th September 2001: we experience a dramatic slow-down in the bookings we usually expect to come in by this time for the next 2-3 months. Also the usual inquiries for "This & That" have nearly stopped. Nevertheless: we are confident that things will get better over the next weeks since our business attracts on average a very good percentage of return-customers and our area generally is visited by the more adventurous and experienced traveller who is less susceptible to the ongoing media and press. Also we assume that a fair amount of tourists who favored the destinations in the middle- and far-east will tend to look out for alternatives and therefore come to explore us & the Caribbean. We should also take in mind the effort of the US-government to encourage people to travel and the US-citizens overall-mentality. For the time being we continue our usual "struggle for survival" as we have done for the past years - as I always say: life never gets boring over here!
Edwin Frank, Grenada Board of Tourism
Preliminary indications are that the next Cruise Ship Tourist Season, which commences on October 17, 2001, will witness the arrival in Grenada of a minimum of 225 ship calls.
As part of the build up to this year's Cruise Ship Season, the Grenada Board of Tourism conducted training workshops designed to upgrade the skills of taxi-drivers, water taxi operators and vendors who will be interacting directly with cruise ship passengers. Additionally, extensive improvements were made to the Cruise Ship Welcome Centre. These include the redesigning and repainting of the facility, along with the introduction of "The Visitors Channel" and the deployment of new "Come Again" welcome signs.
The Grenada Board of Tourism and The Grenada Ports Authority have also been collaborating towards the enhancement of the island's cruise tourism. Measures to improve the operational system of the water taxi service providers, and a decision by The Grenada Ports Authority to collaborate in Grenada's marketing endeavors are among areas where cooperation has been most visible.
The new cruise ship season is also expected to witness a more pronounced effort by The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association to capitalize on the presence of cruise ship passengers, by promoting the idea of getting them to return for a land-based vacation. This will involve the distribution of special tokens that will entitle them to various incentives when they do eventually decide to vacation in properties of participating members. The promotion will be dubbed "Tropical Shipping Free Stay Caribbean".
The Grenada Board of Tourism looks forward to a successful season, particularly in light of suggestions that the present uncertainties in other regions, may result in some other ships being re-directed to the Caribbean Region.
Dona Schneider, Yacht WindWitch
Following upon the terrible events at the World Trade Center in New York on the 11th September 2001, and the heroic and tragic endeavors of rescue workers who died in the collapse of those buildings.
A number of liveaboard yacht cruisers felt a frustration at being unable to help in anyway.
a collection was thus made, amongst the international boating community and together with the contribution of a number of local businesses. At total of $2150.58 US Dollars was collected and transmitted by draft to the New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. To help the families in need by the sudden loss of the breadwinners.
We the cruisers lying at the various anchorages in Grenada would like to thank the following local businesses for the contribution namely:
Spice Island Marine
The Boatyard Restaurant
The Concerns of us all does make a difference in times like these.
Dona on S/V "WindWitch"
Bryan on S/V "Nightwinds"
Hope on S/V "Sunshine Daydream"
TERROR DOESN'T DAUNT MARINE TOURISM IN USVI
Carol M. Bareuther
In the wake of terrorist attacks in the U.S., there is good news on the marine tourism front from one U.S. Virgin Islands marina.
Carole Dudley, director of operations at Crown Bay Marina, reports that the state-of-the-art 99-slip facility in St. Thomas continues to receive advance bookings for yachts planning visits during the upcoming winter season, and that no yachts with prior reservations have canceled to date.
Elsewhere throughout the United States Virgin Islands, a U.S. possession in the Caribbean that relies heavily on travel and tourism, many private-sector businesses and local government offices are feeling the economic impact of 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland. Hardest hit by slow-downs and layoffs are resort hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers and retailers who are dependent upon visitors arriving by commercial airlines and cruise ships.
"We are fortunate that our marina's client base is a mix of U.S. and foreign-flag vessels, whose owners have access to private aircraft," explains Dudley. "The fact that yacht owners and their guests depend less on commercial airlines than the typical tourist, is an advantage right now for the segment of the marine industry that we service."
Poised for the seasonal upswing in yacht migrations from the U.S. mainland and Mediterranean to ports in the Caribbean that traditionally begins each November, Dudley visited the September Newport International Boat Show and plans to attend the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show this October, "to personally reassure South Florida-based yacht charter operators that Crown Bay Marina stands ready to provide secure dockage, competitively-priced fuel, and even specialized services to facilitate vessel and passenger clearance."
Dudley points out that St. Thomas operates as a U.S. port of entry and that arrival procedures differ from those on the U.S. mainland. Crown Bay Marina routinely deploys staff to international boat shows in Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, to bolster relationships with primary segments of its market.
Well regarded for its management policies that protect the privacy of its yacht guests, as well as for its stringent safety measures, Crown Bay Marina currently maintains a security staff of four, which is routinely augmented for special on-site events -- such as the Virgin Islands
Charteryacht League's 27th Annual Charteryacht Show set for November 8 - 11th - and on an as-needed basis throughout the peak yachting season.
TERROR DOESN'T DAMPEN CHARTER YACHT DEMAND IN VI
In the wake of September 11's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the U.S. Virgin Islands' hoteliers have felt the ripple effect of $4 million in room cancellations for October and November. Yet, the territory's marine sector, specifically its crewed charter industry, has been little affected.
This has been a very interesting time. We fully expected cancellations and no booking activity. However, we did have at least 10 bookings last week and just this week we've had leads from our website. I am not sure if this means that families are realizing how important it is to be together. It's a very intimate vacation and really brings people together," explains Susan Chandler, executive director of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League (VICL), based at Crown Bay Marina, St. Thomas.
In addition to no immediate or impending cancellations for charter yacht vacations, Chandler says there has been apparent disruption to plans for the annual November Boat Show. "On Friday, little more than a week after the attacks, we actually had 12 brokers register for the show," Chandler says. "We expect a very strong broker turn-out. Yacht registry has been very good as well, we only have 5 slips left for the boat show."
As for aligning with land-based counterparts for farther reaching plans to keep tourism afloat in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Chandler says: "I have been in touch with the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce to see what we can do to tie in with vacation packages they are donating to the rescue workers."
Plans underway by the local Chamber of Commerce, which should also benefit the marine tourism sector, include: a campaign to market the territory as a friendly destination under the American flag, lobbying the get the nation's airlines to restore flights to the Virgin Islands before they resume interrupted international service, and restoring the recently slashed cap on travel-agent commissions for domestic ticketing.
"We have the benefit of being a low population dense destination, and charter yacht vacations are even less population dense," says Carter Wilbur, manager of Flagship, a St. Thomas-based charter yacht clearinghouse. "I can't see a terrorist wanting to target a 6-pack yacht."
The Virgin Islands marine industry contributes approximately $30 million to the local economy annually.
Copyright© 2001 Compass Publishing