They say a little local knowledge can be a very good thing and that being the case, it looks like the upcoming Caribbean Charter Yacht Show is in excellent hands.
Kicking off on St Thomas in the USVI from December 9 – 12 inclusive, this eagerly anticipated inaugural show – which will be hosted by IGY Marinas in partnership with IYBA – is in the capable hands of St Thomas resident Jenn Johnson and her company Jenn Events.
Newly appointed as events manager, Jenn was the obvious choice as few know the region as well as she does and she is perfectly placed to make the CCYS an exciting new tradition for the USVI.
"It’s super exciting," enthuses Jenn from her St Thomas base. "Hopefully this show will be a springboard and the first of many. Our focus is on brokers, boats and personal relationships, with the brokers getting the opportunity to spend time on board seeing the boats. It’s a more intimate show than its predecessors in many respects."
Jenn has organised some of the most lavish and innovative events the USVI has seen. Weddings, travel incentives, yachting and corporate socials have all benefitted from her Midas touch since she established Jenn Events in 2002 so it’s rather apt that yachting is where her career first began.
"I worked as a stewardess on a 150ft Christensen yacht in my early 20s," she recalls. "At the time, this vessel was the most spectacular thing on the ocean. I learned a lot about yacht life and hospitality and was lucky to work with an amazing chef who didn’t serve the same dish twice. It was a brilliant introduction to fine dining and how that whole world works."
Born in Puerto Rico, Jenn spent her early years in the US, graduating college with a degree in hospitality management before settling down in St Thomas over three decades ago. She became program manager for a local destination management company on the island and later moved to Caneel Bay Resort, a Five star Rosewood property on St John’s where she managed weddings and special events.
"Something I can bring to the table is the on-island team as well as my worldwide experience," she says. "I already had a relationship with IGY and I think they could see the value in having someone with my knowledge and experience who is island based with a worldwide reach instead of bringing someone in from outside.
"I’m still based in St Thomas but I have worked all over. Setting up my own events company here in 2002 allowed me to travel more and also start building up my legacy clients, some who are still with me from those days. I’ve covered everything from large scale corporate events to private functions for high profile clients.
"One of my first jobs was a wedding at the Ritz-Carlton – they wanted a white carpet and lots of unique aspects to the day. I really enjoyed delivering what they needed with my production company. I also plan and execute incentive programmes with my team, which became my niche, or I execute what someone else has already planned.
"I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years now and I still love being hands on with everything."
The business continued to grow apace until 2017, when the USVI was devastated by hurricanes. "That was our dead stop," Jenn recalls. "We had 45 employees doing events and were contracted to all the hotels for event design and décor. Then events went to zero and things became difficult, and just as we were starting back up again, Covid hit."
With much of the world closed for business, the USVI remained open and as a result, the region has experienced one of its best yachting periods on record.
"Many areas including the BVI were closed during the pandemic so we saw more and more yachts coming here," explains Jenn. "I started organising events on yachts, becoming more connected with the yachting world during this period. Previously, I’d done a few yacht parties but it was not a big part of my business and suddenly, it took off.
"It’s an exciting time. I feel we are perfectly situated to do innovative things and utilise what’s happening in the USVI to get the area on everyone’s radar. We want to create and promote what is exciting and different about this destination and to that end, I’m working on some fun things the yachting industry can experience when they’re here in December for the show."
Jenn is working with an interactive tropical treasure hunt company and is developing trips to Lovango and picturesque Magen’s Bay, a favourite with media mogul David Geffen and his yacht Rising Sun.
"We want to let the yachting world know that the USVI has so much to offer, including anchorages galore. Magen’s Bay has really taken off, we will have amazing moorings there in populated and unpopulated bays so you can experience the best of both worlds.
"The Lovango Beach Club is currently being developed and you can opt for a beach club day there ashore as well as trying out some amazing snorkelling and diving opportunities too.
"While some aspects of CCYS will be highly innovative, some will be more traditional. Local tradition here is strong and we will be demonstrating that throughout the show. We have a huge and interesting history that I want to incorporate and we’ll also use local celebrity chefs in our chef competition."
With a spectacular choice of provisioning, easy fly-in options on both scheduled and private jets plus efficient Customs & Immigration, Jenn is convinced new visitors to St. Thomas will be smitten by the many advantages.
"There will be a warm welcome for visitors from local businesses here," she says. "During Covid, St Thomas has had a complete restoration of the downtown area, including a revitalisation of our waterfront with a walkway and bike path along the palm tree lined esplanade from IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande marina all the way into town.
"St Thomas is busier than it’s ever been, which means the local economy is benefitting. Our hotels, villas and restaurants are exploding with demand and St. John is also swarming with people.
"I hope we can also show yacht crews that there is fun to be had on their breaks here. IGY is really gearing up for that. Navy Beach is our Food & Beverage partner - they are also in the Hamptons - so there’s a high end flavour to that side of the show as well as the smaller local restaurants in the marina, like the new Twistt340, so it’s not just the big players. It’s a great mix.
"The USVI is coming back really strong and raising the bar in every way. I think brokers and visitors to the Caribbean Charter Yacht Show will be blown away by the hidden gems of the USVI."