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Charter forecast: What to expect this Caribbean season

Nearly a year on from the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma, Maria and Jose charter industry experts share their views on what to expect in the Caribbean this winter.

Strong demand

The general consensus is that charter guests are looking to return to the Caribbean after so many yachts were forced to divert to alternative destinations last season. “Based off the current enquiries I believe that charter clients are looking to charter in the Caribbean again,” says Worth Avenue’s Graham Sullivan. “With new developments on the rise, beautiful white sandy beaches and fantastic weather I strongly believe the charter market will be strong this winter season.”

YPI charter director Annemarie Gathercole also thinks many clients will want to return to the stunning cruising grounds. “Even at the end of last year, charterers were already returning to islands such as St Barths, which managed to recover fairly quickly,” she adds.

Demand to return to the Caribbean will hopefully stabilise enquiry levels this winter. “To drum up business for the remainder of the last winter season after the hurricane struck, our charter management team focussed on specific promotions for Spring Break (US market) and Easter (International market),” explains Burgess charter broker Sophie Holmes. “This was successful but, this year, we are confident that as soon as the Caribbean season approaches, the enquiries will be back up to normal levels.”

Urgent uptake

Fraser charter broker Debra Blackburn believes that last year’s disruption will add an extra element of urgency to this year’s enquiries. “Many clients decided not to charter last winter so we expect they will be anxious to get back to the warm waters of the Caribbean during the cold winter. I already have charters booked by clients that did not go last year due to the storms,” she says.

IYC’s Barbara Stork Landeweer has also seen a similar level of demand. “The economy is strong so I believe that many charterers are anxious to go yachting as many didn’t get to go on their family yachting vacation last year due to the damage caused by hurricanes and are anxious to get back on the water,” she explains.

“People love and are loyal to the region,” adds Edmiston’s Michaela Beitz-Biggi. “The local people rely on us visiting and it still is the paradise we all love and know.”

Go with the flow

Charter guests are being encouraged to return but brokers are keen to manage expectations. “I think the most important thing for clients to consider going into a charter for the Virgin Islands or Leeward Islands this winter is to be flexible and to have an open mind about the enjoyment of being on the water. They should focus on island hopping and being spoiled by crew rather than what they may see in parts ashore that are still not quite the same,” says Ocean Independence’s Daphne d’Offay.

One area of slight concern is St Martin. “The airport is slow to recover and they are still using tents for the gates,” says senior charter broker at Camper & Nicholsons Barbara Dawson. “The docks in St Martin are still damaged to some extent and this may affect provisioning or arrivals for the yachts. Other areas in the Caribbean are back up and running so this is really the only area still affected but one that is important to many vessels that visit the Caribbean.”

Pictures courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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