Business Monday: ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT: Future of yachting in Barbados looks bright


WHEN he spoke to this newspaper just last month, Peter Gilkes was quite upbeat about the future of yachting as a niche in Barbados’ tourism industry and the potential it has for expanding visitor spending here.
In what promises to be an active six months for sailing, Gilkes said that this activity could further the programme to reposition Barbados in that business segment at a time when the country really needs it.
Currently there is the Barbados 50 programme. Close to 80 yachts  will be in the country by monthend, having taken part in the Barbados 50 Transatlantic Rally. Later this month the annual Mount Gay Round the island race will take place and this will add more variety to the sailing programme. 
In May this year there will be the OK Dinghy World Championships, and the Finn Masters World’s in early June, again piloting Barbados back to a position where it had been before seeing a downturn to the business in the late 1980s.
Barbados had indeed made a big bang back then when it attracted several yachts accompanied by relatives of crew members taking part in the then Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). That ARC started  in the Canary Islands and the boats sailed to this country.
Some things did go wrong leading Calypsonian, Red Plastic Bag to suggest in one of his songs that the country “played the fool and lost the boat race.” The final destination for the ARC was subsequently relocated from this country to St. Lucia. 
One of the reasons cited for the switch was the absence of Marine facilities here for the boats that traversed the Atlantic. The man behind the ARC was Jimmy Cornell.  It was a big blow to the tourism earnings. There were other reasons cited for the departure, including concessions and other support services. That was the year 1989.
“We have not played host to any such type of event since 1989,” Gilkes told Business Monday. 
Both Gilkes and the Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy referred to the strong points which the country can leverage to move a notch forward in this segment of the tourism business.
Barbados is ideally located as one of the first points of contact for ships and smaller vessels crossing the vast Atlantic Ocean from West Africa, especially, and from Europe. To this end Gilkes sees “Barbados 50 Marina being undertaken to rebuild the country’s image as the preferred destination for boats crossing the Atlantic,” he said in recent comments to Business Monday.
The island has some very good support services and has met some of the requirements for the yachts coming here. “Having previously removed the import duty on equipment on Charter Fishing and Coastal Cruise boats and the removal of the duty on visiting yachts staying longer than six months in Barbados,” he explained.
He also spoke about a 600-foot Barbados 50 Marina Dock, the latest adoption of the online clearance system with the use of the Sailclean programme for both local and visiting yachts.
Support also came from the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, and the Barbados Tourism and Marketing Incorporated.
Special mention is also made of the fantastic support from the Barbados Port Incorporated, the Barbados Customs the Barbados Immigration and the Barbados Port Health officers who have made every effort to make sure everything that needed to be done was done for the successful hosting of theses events. 
Gilkes also remarked that Barbados has again worked with Cornell to create the 2016 edition of the Barbados Transatlantic Rally.  Sealy said that this year will be another exciting one for sailing in Barbados. Zeroing in on the Mount Gay event scheduled to start on January 16, the Minister indicated that this country is fortunate to be the home of this prestigious tournament which can boast of being in existence for some 81 years. He recalled that last year the race attracted two of the fastest race boats in the world: the MS Barbados Concise and Phaedo 3.
“So we are delighted that the MS Barbados Concise 10 has returned to Barbados to defend her record and that spectators will be anticipating another exhilarating contest,” Sealy said. Also returning will be the Elena of London and Adix.
Gilkes estimates that between 750 and 800 persons connected to the May to June 2017 Finn Masters Barbados World’s and the OK Dinghy events will be in Barbados. 
He also sees this as an opportunity for Barbadians “in the marine industries to make some money as these arriving yachts have come in and used the services of locals for such repairs as  engine repairs, sail repairs, transmission repairs and generator servicing and repairs.”
From all of this it appears that the groundwork is being laid for  more activity in the business of yachting. Its sustainability will hinge on how much Barbados is able to provide in relation to infrastructure and other support services.
This is fast pace and competitive business with many countries, even some across this region looking to snatch what others have spawned. Barbados must be vigilant.

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