Two years after the Category 5 storm devastated the Caribbean, St Maarten has enjoyed what one veteran industry observer describes as “a moderately successful high season”

A lack of infrastructure, high fees and greater nearby competition has contributed to a slower-than-expected comeback for the yachting tourism industry in St Maarten, Virgin Islands, following Hurricane Irma.

Two years after the Category 5 storm devastated the Caribbean, St Maarten has enjoyed what one veteran industry observer describes as “a moderately successful high season.”

“For this off season, it appears that an even greater percentage of vessels have been repositioned outside of the hurricane belt, leaving a low level of activity in the sector in St Maarten,” Robbie Ferron told The Daily Herald. “There is a good opportunity for the industry and the government to work at attracting them back after the hurricane season,” he told the island newspaper.

According to Ferron, the marina capacity has returned to some degree, “but those marinas that were closed or partially closed [in Cole Bay and Oyster Pond], there have been no announcements. The Oyster Pond capacity reduction is the largest negative impact.”

Ferron explained that St Maarten maintains consistent yacht tourism because of the range of goods and services on the island, but the combination of fewer services available post-storm and more competition from near-by ports is a threat.

“The longer the industry has to fight advantaged competition, the less strong this part of the industry is likely to be, whilst competitive territories have an incentive to invest as the impact of the disadvantageous circumstances continue,” Ferron said.

There is some increase in capacity on the horizon, as a six-berth superyacht facility is scheduled to open for next season.

Ferron reports that smaller yachts came back, but at reduced numbers, in part because of mooring fees that are less competitive with other destinations, a concern of the industry for several years and goes on to say that the industry’s “strong social media push may well have helped the degree of bounce-back of this industry.”

Next year’s 40th edition of the St Maarten Heineken Regatta is a great opportunity for promoting the industry and the island, Ferron said.