Five Caribbean countries are reporting double-digit drops in tourist visits as the global economic slowdown wreaks havoc on the region’s top industry. Conversely, the demand for Caribbean yacht charter vacations, especially bareboat charters remains strong.
Statistics released this week by the Caribbean Tourism Organization show Anguilla taking the worst hit with a decline of 18.8 percent. Visits are down in all 12 reporting nations and territories except Jamaica, Cuba and Mexico’s Cancun region. Tourist traffic fell 14.3 percent in Antigua, 13.7 percent in St. Lucia, 11.6 percent in Montserrat and 11.3 percent in the Cayman Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico cited drops of 6.1 and 4.7 percent. The reporting periods vary, but all measure tourism in early 2009 compared to the same months in 2008.
While land-based hotel-oriented tourism has dropped, inquires for bareboat yacht charter vacations is steady and on track to March 2008 levels. Deep discounts and incentives such as “10 days for 7 paid” are driving strong levels of both inquiries and reservations.
Special sailing events such as the recently completed Virgin Island Race Week drew record attendance as bareboat charter enthusiasts and seasoned sailboat racing teams from around the world took advantage of the warm weather and stiff breezes.
Not to be outdone, the 28th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta also reported solid attendance figures, as sailboat racers on 47 boats in 7 classes, including an amateur bareboat category took advantage of the one of the windiest and wildest courses in recent memory.
The British Virgin Islands continue to be the most popular destination for a Caribbean yacht charter, due to their constant trade winds and close proximity to the United States, about a 2.5 hour flight. Major bases further down island in St. Martin as well as Antigua, and Canouan in the Grenadines gives yacht charter enthusiasts a number of unique island destinations to explore.
Earlier unrest reported in the French Caribbean at the beginning of the year has subsided and all major bareboat bases of operation in the Caribbean are open and ready for business.
Large inventories of bareboat yachts, especially new model bareboats such as the Beneteau 51.5, the Robertson and Caine 4600 catamaran, and the Beneteau 43.3 make this a buyer’s market in the Caribbean, in terms of selection and favorable pricing.
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