The first-ever Bahamas Charter Show was held last weekend and organisers claim the participants exceeded expectations by 50%.
More than 20 charter boats and 80 registered brokers took part in the event, which was co-produced by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and Worldwide Boat, a luxury charter company based in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.
Since Hurricane Dorian, the Bahamas have been looking for ways to diversify its tourism economy, so turned to the multibillion-dollar charter industry.
“What we want to do is create a strategic plan around the boating and yachting industry, and see how we can include this as our maritime cruise and yachting business model,” Dr Kenneth Romer, the Ministry of Tourism’s executive director of product quality and support, told the Nassau Tribune. “We originally had predicted 15 yachts, but we have exceeded that to now 23. We are very pleased with the success and we wish to drive this part of our tourism product in the future.”
The Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) provided tours of various facilities in Nassau, and its president, Peter Maury, responded to Ministry of Tourism projects that one charter yacht, spending one week in the Bahamas is worth US$1m to the local economy.
“It’s jobs. You have all of these boat technicians, electricians, mechanics, air-conditioning, painters and hull washers, and there is a number of vocational support jobs from provisioners to agents,” he said.
The Bahamas is targeting, in part, charter business from the nearby Caribbean, which Maury said “has been beating us hands down for 50 years.”
“The advantage for The Bahamas is that these yachts can come to The Bahamas and stay in The Bahamas for up to six months a year at a time, and charter their own cruises around the islands without having to check in like they have to do in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean they have to check in to a different country every time. For example, a charter that starts in Antigua and then on to St Thomas, they have to check in every time.”
ABM executive director Basil Smith said the shows impact on tourism isn’t big in numbers but is big in “comparative value”.
“We really want to stimulate the business,” Smith said. “[The Bahamas] wants to get a bigger slice of the pie” as The Bahamas is missing out on prime business to other Caribbean countries “outperforming us” despite our “geographic advantage” of being next to the US.
Sanaa Vhora, yacht charter and sales director for Worldwide Boat, said the show presented an opportunity for The Bahamas to expand its reach and reputation among the global marina and boating sector.