Hosted by BOAT International in partnership with the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), ten leading charter brokers and managers from Europe and the US were invited to share their thoughts.
With many of the group visiting the island for the first time they were immediately impressed by what Bermuda had to offer but openly discussed the challenges that it faces establishing itself on the charter calendar. “Bermuda isn’t a traditional destination but it does have huge potential,” said Christopher Craven of SuperYachtsMonaco. “However, it’s not marketed as a destination by the people who represent the owners and it’s not really marketed that much by us as brokers to our clients.”
Traditionally foreign-flagged yachts were prohibited from chartering in Bermuda. A temporary act reversing this was put in place for the America’s Cup in 2017 and in 2019 this became a permanent legislative change. However, this news has been slow to infiltrate through the industry and the charter brokers flagged a lack of available inventory as one of the biggest barriers.
“It was extremely difficult to find a yacht,” said IYC’s Carrie Freeman, of her experience of trying to book a charter for a client. "When I reached out to yachts to charter in Bermuda, I was met with laughter and hesitation. People said ‘Who’s going to Bermuda? Isn’t it illegal to charter in Bermuda?” It was difficult for me to find any yachts who were open to having a conversation about chartering in Bermuda. But we were relentless and found a yacht and had great charters onboard.”
Northrop & Johnson’s Gayle Patterson agreed that “one of the factors is the lack of yachts”. “I polled our brokers before I came, and 80% said that they had actually received enquiries for Bermuda but only one said that they had booked a charter here,” she explained. “It’s important to sell the destination, but it’s also about trying to get the owners of charter yachts to consider this as a destination.”
In terms of attracting more superyachts for either charter or private use Bermuda’s high season – May to October – means the island has to compete with the traditional summer cruising grounds of the Mediterranean and New England.
“A potential solution that was put forward was a split summer season, particularly for American clients. “This is just a concept, but I think you could persuade some yachts not to spend the entire summer in New England,” said Ocean Independence’s Daphne d'Offay. “They could maybe do a couple of months in New England but also a month or so here. I think we could try and push in that direction.”
As well as the roundtable guests were also treated to an on-island experience, including a tour of the World Heritage Site of St Georges (where new superyacht facilities are under construction), a luxury catamaran tour of the Great Sound and a hand-picked selection of some of Bermuda’s finest restaurants and resorts.
There was a strong consensus from the group that what Bermuda has to offer is “different from other islands”. “If we can convince boats to come here and stay here for the season I’m pretty sure they’ll get booked up,” said Fraser’s Vicky Whitehouse.