The superyacht charter industry in Cuba could be transformed if American travel restrictions to the country are lifted.
Cuba was the subject of a discussion at the Superyacht Summit in Florida last week (25 March) with experts predicting that the thawing of relations with America could have an enormous impact on the yachting industry.
In December last year the United States and Cuba announced the revival of diplomatic relations. As a result, travel restrictions are now less severe but travelling as a tourist is still prohibited.
Boats built in the U.S. or with more than 10 per cent American components must obtain a license to visit Cuba with the Bureau of Industry and Security with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Boats also need a specific reason to visit.
A law has been proposed in the U.S. to remove tourism restrictions but it has not yet been voted on.
Bob Saxon, president of International Yacht Collection in Ft. Lauderdale, said at the conference that Cuba would be huge draw for American charters if the changes happen.
“With Cuba, you have the proximity to the U.S,” he said. “When restrictions are dropped, you will see a marked shift in the charter market.
“I see fully loaded boats coming out of Florida on their way to Cuba to enjoy the cruising.
“People say there is no infrastructure, but the yachting infrastructure will happen as a result of demand
“The ultimate effect will be slow coming, but as facilities grow, it will come. That means jobs, and it’s great for the charter market.”
At the moment Cuba’s marinas can handle yachts up to 150ft but are not as developed as more established destinations.
Michael Reardon, a yacht management consultant in Ft. Lauderdale, argued that improved infrastructure was not necessary.
“There are lots of places to anchor out. The north side is protected and the south side has some of the best diving in the world.
“It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the adventurous, the island is huge and it can be done.”