Oct. 29, 2004 – Preparations are under way for the V.I. Charteryacht League's 30th Annual Fall Charteryacht Show. Scheduled for Nov. 4 to 6, and preceding a similar event hosted by the Charter Yacht Society of the British Virgin Islands in neighboring Tortola, the show is expected to draw more than 40 crewed monohull, multihull and power yachts. The yachts will be visited by over 80 globally-based, charter-yacht brokers – the eyes, ears and sales force for the crewed, charter-yacht industry. The brokers will attend these major marine "open houses" to prepare for booking the winter season.
Carter Wilbur, general manager at the St. Thomas-based clearinghouse Flagship, said, "The fall show gives charter-yacht brokers the ability to see the yachts and crews firsthand, and better prepare themselves for clients' questions. It also reenergizes them as salespeople to see the islands, the beautiful yachts and the wonderful crews, which they carry back and share with their clients."
Hurricane Ivan, which devastated Grenada, will be a topic of discussion as charter-yacht crews, brokers and industry leaders gather to talk about the future of the industry.
"Each year, about 40 percent of the charter yachts that base out of the Virgin Islands during the winter season head to the southern Caribbean. At Flagship alone, we had four of our yachts in Grenada that were damaged by Ivan. One will most likely be declared a total loss. Two were dismasted and after repairs may be back to charter by December. All three of these boats were hauled out in yards. A fourth boat dragged on its anchor and is now in the process of being lifted off the beach, repaired and refitted before it can return to charter sometime next year," Wilbur said.
He continued, "What is up in the air now is how the insurance companies will react. Policies usually come up for renewal in March, so we'll know more then. If insurance policies increase in cost, that may lead to an increase in fees for charter-yacht vacations and that will trigger a whole other set of business questions. At this point, its all speculation."
This year's show will conclude with a charity poker tournament on Nov. 6. "Instead of cashing in your chips at the end, proceeds will benefit the relief effort in Grenada. While the initial trauma of the storm is over, we remember that there's a long period of rebuilding and economic recovery afterwards," Wilbur said.
As far as the economic health of the local charter-yacht industry, "bookings are strong," Wilbur said. "By July, we had all our eight-passenger boats fully booked for New Year's week. Clients are now back in the mindset of knowing they need advanced reservations. This wasn't the case after 9/11 when people were wary about traveling and there were more last minute deals and reservations."
Another positive indicator for the industry is the number of new brokers attending the show. "We have 10 or more," Wilbur said. "We're seeing a lot of outreach by travel agents, who are looking for a new business model."
Yet, another thumbs up for St. Thomas' marine sector is the progress being made on the Yacht Haven Marina. "Phase I funding has been secured and its been secured from a local institution, which is nice to see," Wilbur said. "We are really hurting for marina space, so we're looking forward to Yacht Haven opening."
The Charteryacht Show launches with a New Broker Seminar, followed by a cocktail reception at Crown Bay Marina on Nov. 3. Yachts are open to show for brokers from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 4,5, 6. Lunch seminars will focus on topics such as scuba diving, contracts and the V.I. National Park. On the evening of Nov. 5, visiting brokers will be treated to a show of local art at the Grand Galleria in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
For more information, call 774-3944 or visit the Web site www.vicl.org.
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