With IGY’s inaugural Caribbean Charter Yacht Show now less than six months away, preparations are well underway to ensure it provides the best possible start to a successful 2021/22 season for brokers, captains, owners and charterers alike.
OnboardOnline chatted with Brian Deher, IGY’s Regional Director, Caribbean, to find out just how things are going during what is shaping up to be another challenging year for the industry.
The four day show at St. Thomas’s Yacht Haven Grande runs from 9-12 December and will be one of the few yacht shows to take place this year, offering industry professionals a chance to maximise their time on board prime superyachts for charter in the spectacular cruising grounds of the Caribbean and USVI.
“Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas is a jewel in the crown for IGY in the Caribbean,’ says the seasoned marina veteran, who is based in St. Maarten. ‘It was designed as the premier marina in the world and a showcase for what IGY could do. It’s an amazing facility and really sets the standard for what we want to achieve.
“Being an American location makes it very easy for people to fly in from the US. Although the charter season is very European centric as well as American, we feel the American side of the yachting industry can be easily catered to in St. Thomas, with direct flights multiple times daily out of the US Eastern Seaboard.
“Since Covid, YHG has been used as a home port for many US-owned boats who’ve become a lot more comfortable with entry and departure procedures for the USVI and appreciate the great cruising potential within US waters. With the BVI now open, the expectation for this season is that the Virgin Islands in general will be a sought-after cruising destination. St. Thomas is a fantastic location to start and end your charters and an amazing base for the new Caribbean Charter Yacht Show.”
While the inaugural show is launching in St. Thomas, other Caribbean islands are expected to play a role in this year’s event and be considered as possible venues for future shows according to Brian. “We know that our industry is ever changing and to run successful shows we need to explore options annually rather than simply accept what is already on offer.
“Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas was an obvious choice for IGY not just because it is an US Territory but also because we have large slips at YHG that are able to accommodate yachts in excess of 450 feet. We can encapsulate everything that’s needed in one location and make it a much more efficient show with brokers, exhibitors and boats enjoying the option of getting in and out in three or four days.”
To help non-US citizens travel smoothly and angst-free to St. Thomas, IGY is already working on a detailed logistics plan which will encompass fuss-free transfers by private jet and a catered overnight stop to maximise the value of attending the show for the all-important brokers.
“Some brokers may be adding vacation time into their schedule or perhaps want to see as many boats as possible and may also plan to attend the Antigua show as well as the St. Thomas show,” adds Brian. “We are looking at coordinating flights leaving Antigua at the end of that show to take people to St. Thomas. They can also choose to go to St. Maarten first for an overnight stopover on 8 December to attend a Navy Beach event at Yacht Club Isle de Sol.”
Holding the CCYS at YHG also means IGY can help oversee all aspects of planning and infrastructure instead of managing the show preparations remotely.
“Using our own facility means no remote management where it’s all via Zoom calls and you’re not sure what’s actually happening,’ says Brian, formerly Director of Marina Operations and Planning at Isle de Sol and Simpson Bay Marina.
“We can move staff from IGY facilities in the US and Europe which will be slowing down for their off season and those personnel can assist on the ground on St. Thomas. We do a lot of cross training to ensure that repositioning staff across our facilities is seamless. The marina operations won’t take a hit because of the show operations – the marina team will be there and we will bring in additional IGY and IYBA staff to support and run the show.
“IGY will provide a very convenient event, which minimises the traditional bureaucracy and standing in line while maximising the time you’re in front of a captain or on board a yacht.”
Given that travel restrictions are only gradually lifting as a result of the pandemic, Brian is feeling confident and optimistic about the timing of the event. “People have not seen as many yachts as they would like in the past 18 months so the opportunity to do so in a specific region where they will be chartering is fantastic.
“This is also a chance for us to showcase the procedures and policies that are in place at IGY facilities and how this experience translates into running a safe show, ensuring that owners, guests and crew are in a secure environment. When you start and end your charters at an IGY facility, we know you’ll feel confident that we are taking Covid-19 and other potential risks seriously by being proactive above the safety levels governments have set.
“We know that a multi-million dollar charter can be ruined by one person not following protocols so we set up testing centres and quarantine zones to allow people who desire to use their yachts the ability to do so.
“St. Thomas has done very well in the past couple of years because American owners have chosen to keep their boats in US waters to better manage the ever changing entry and departure procedures around the world that were set up to help control the spread of Covid-19.
Lowering entrance fees and axing mandatory minimum marina stays are just two new strategies IGY is pioneering to turn things on their head, reducing expenses across the board for brokers, yachts and exhibitors.
“No matter how successful the show is in terms of numbers and boats attending, if the brokers don’t show up and drive business to the yachts, it’s not a success,” says Brian. “Our goal is to get the brokers to St. Thomas, maximise their time and make the show as efficient, profitable and useful to them as possible. Captains and crew have in many cases been overlooked by many shows in the past decade, so IGY is also focusing on seminars and other activities to provide added value to them.
“Reducing costs at the busiest time of year in the Caribbean is pretty ground-breaking. A large yacht can pay in excess of $10 per foot per night to stay at the best facilities. IGY has reduced dockage rates for show participants to $2.50 per foot if you register for the show before the end of July, rising to $3.50 per foot per night for anyone registering for the show after July.
“We run a tiered, progressive rate plan where the daily rate per foot reduces when more nights are committed to. All of the nights participants spend on the dock with IGY prior to and during the Caribbean Charter Yacht Show will qualify for a higher tier, lower daily rate throughout the season.”
With onsite physicians running antigen and PCR testing, customs and border control in place and the all-important cooperation of the USVI tourist department to support visitors, as well as detailed IGY support for non-US citizens in securing visas, Brian feels the December show will be a gamechanger.
“We think there is significant demand for this show as the majority of charter guests in the Caribbean are American,” he adds. ‘Flexibility is also vital so if you reserve a place for your yacht for the first annual Caribbean Charter Yacht Show, but need to cancel for any reason, the dockage amount paid can be credited to the yacht and used at IGY facilities anywhere else in the world.
“This show is a great opportunity for yachts not used to cruising in the US to explore the region and all it has to offer with IGY holding your hand and assisting as needed throughout the process.”