Charter Forecast 2019/20: Hurricane Damaged Destinations Bounce Back for Winter Charter Season
by Sophia Wilson
With the bookings flooding in for the winter season charter industry experts are encouraging yachts to return to the Bahamas and are seeing the traditional Caribbean favourites rebound after the devastation caused by hurricanes in recent years.
Superyachts encouraged back to the Bahamas
The world watched in horror as the popular cruising grounds of the Bahamas were battered by Hurricane Dorian in August 2019. However, within days of the devastation the IYBA Charter Professionals Committee put together a statement urging people to “keep yachting plans in the Bahamas” in order to support the local economy. “While the northern islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama have been deeply affected by Hurricane Dorian, the rest of the Bahamas islands remain largely untouched and they need our business now more than ever before,” the IYBA explained. “It is crucial that we continue to support the islands for the economic health of the nation. With over 700 islands to explore, there are still plenty of islands ready to welcome the yachting community.”
The message seems to have worked with charter brokers reporting strong bookings for the Bahamas, particularly the Exumas. “We all know some parts of the Bahamas were hit badly by the hurricanes, but that didn’t much effect the most popular destinations,” says Hein Velema, CEO of Thompson, Westwood & White Yachts. “Nassau is still the number one port of embarkation for Christmas cruises with almost one in five worldwide holiday charters starting in the Bahamas.” Ocean Independence’s June Montagne has also seen interest in the region even though it can be cooler over the Christmas period. “The season is looking to be busy; both in the Bahamas and the Caribbean,” she says. “The motor yachts are becoming harder and harder to find and the smaller sailing yachts and catamarans have been booked for months.”
Charter for charity
Some brokers and owners are going even further to try and support the rebuild effort in the Bahamas. The IYC Charter Management department is encouraging owners to donate part of their charter revenue to further help the hurricane relief efforts. Between now and January 5th 2020, if owners donate up to 1% of their charter revenue, IYC will match up to 1% of its charter management fee, with all proceeds going to the IYC Hurricane Relief fund. A number of IYC’s fleet, including 50 metre Hospitality and 44 metre Mim have already signed up to the scheme.
“Every yacht that contributes to the IYC Hurricane Relief Fund in this way will assist YachtAid Global in its ongoing efforts to get support to where it is needed most,” says IYC. “The Bahamians are strong and resilient people, and with our help they will be able to rebuild and welcome the superyacht community back to the Abacos and Grand Bahama and other affected areas.”
Caribbean charter hotspots gain strength
As well as charter yachts staying loyal to the Bahamas charter brokers are also reporting that it looks set to be a bumper season across the Caribbean. “The Caribbean seems to be coming back full circle since Irma and Maria,” says Northrop & Johnson’s Jessica Engelmann.
This increase is being seen particularly in areas that were badly impacted by the 2017 hurricanes. “As always, St. Barths remains the number one destination in the Caribbean, especially over the holidays,” says IYC charter management director Heather Hatcher. “We are happy to report that the Virgin Islands are functioning and up to standard compared to where they were a couple of years ago.” Ocean Independence’s Montagne has also seen increased interested in St. Martin. “St Maarten has picked up again after Hurricane Maria and even though the winds can gather, St Barths is looking like it is going to be very busy, which is great to see,” she adds.
All images courtesy of Creative Commons.