Regattas Offer Economic Stimulus for Caribbean Islands Impacted by last Fall’s Hurricanes
Regatta season in the Caribbean is approaching, and this year’s sailing races will provide much-needed economic stimulus to islands impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. With many hotels offline this season, private villa rentals will accommodate visitors and participants associated with these events, and will serve as an important source of revenue for each island’s governments. The St. Barths Bucket Regatta will be held from March 15th through 18th, marking its 24th year. Twenty-six yachts will participate this year—a figure that is down 30% from a year ago but sufficient to stage a world-class regatta with three classes of boats, according to organizer Peter Craig. The St. Barths Bucket is an invitational regatta, open to cruising yachts whose length is 30.5 meters (100’) or greater. The bucket trophy is presented to the boat which prevails in the most competitive, closely contested class. The Bucket, as it is known, typically generates the most incremental visitors of any event given that it falls during the spring break window. Les Voiles de Saint Barth Regatta runs April 8th through April 14nd. Sixty yachts will participate this year, in eight classes. Organizers will set up a race village on the dock in Gustavia harbor, with live concerts nightly. Musician Jimmy Buffett returns as the ambassador of the event, and hopes that the regatta will contribute to the full recovery of the island. Official sponsors include Richard Mille, Veuve Clicquot, Code Zero and WIMCO Villas.
les voiles de St Barth 2016 ©michael gramm
Both of these regattas attract incremental visitors to the island including crews (12-35 per yacht), guests of boat owners, as well as boat enthusiasts who simply want to enjoy the races. In addition, regatta staff and volunteers, media and sponsors contribute to an influx of people.
Restaurants, grocery stores, marine services companies and rental car agencies benefit most from these events, with 90% of local hotel rooms in St. Barths closed for repairs this year, private villas from agencies like WIMCO will house crews and sponsors, and represent a significant source of revenue for the local government. (The island charges a 5% visitor tax based on the weekly rate). WIMCO’s President Stiles Bennet reports that 60% of their portfolio of 370 private villas is now open, representing over 600 bedrooms of capacity. WIMCO Specialists have a special portfolio of villas well suited for crews (villas with double beds and reasonably priced) and ones for spectators (villas in Pointe Milou or Colombier which offer some of the best views of the race course)
In St. Martin, the decision to go forward with the annual Heineken Regatta was announced shortly after Hurricane Irma hit the island. Race director Paul Miller stated that the regatta “is deeply symbolic, and it’s a rallying point.” To minimize the demands on local infrastructure, much of the activity from March 1st though 4th will be off-shore this year. However there will still be a vibrant race village at Princess Port de Plaisance Resort on Simpson Bay lagoon featuring concerts each night. Tickets will be sold for each night’s concerts, and a portion of all proceeds will go towards local charities, including K1 Britannia, St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation, St. Maarten Nature Foundation, and the St. Maarten Yacht Club Regatta Foundation, in assistance of their various hurricane relief projects. A portion of the food & beverage sales, art exhibition sales and much more will also go towards the hurricane relief fund. Organizers anticipate that the event will have a positive economic impact as St. Martin rebuilds.
The BVI Spring Regatta will run from March 26th through April 1st. This year the Regatta Village will be located on the Outer Marina at Nanny Cay on Tortola. “The slips for all of the racing and mother ships will be located here, so we have brought the party closer to the sailors.” said Lou Schwartz, Village Manager. The village will feature a long bar, a pop-up restaurant, and live music each night. The annual Antigua Sailing Week, will run as scheduled this year between April 28th through May 4th
According to an Economic Impact Report conducted in 2004 by accounting firm Hassink & Roos (currently known as Baker Tilly Accounting St. Maarten), the annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is estimated to bring in approximately USD 27.5 million in direct and indirect spending on the island by visitors and participants. The report states that the estimated contribution of the SXM Heineken Regatta to SXM’s GDP is approx. USD 11 million. The estimated additional tax revenues for Government are USD 1.65 million.
Another report on the economic analysis of regattas was done for Newport, RI which hosts 4 regattas a year. Research firm Performance Research conducted a study on behalf of Newport Rhode Island’s Waterfront Commission and found that the average length of stay of visitors for all regattas was 6.5 days. Each competing boat accounted for an average of 3.9 visitors, with the average daily spending per visitor being $191.00. Business categories with the highest spending were food and drinking establishments, hotels, and retail stores. According to Ryan Miller, Chairman of the Newport Waterfront Commission, “This study confirms that sailing regattas are not just fun recreational activity, but they provide measurable economic value to the local economy while involving a low impact on the city and state infrastructure.”
The data will vary for an island vs. a drive-to destination like Newport, however the evidence seems strong that the activity generated by regattas in the Caribbean this winter will aid in the recovery of those islands where they are hosted.
Free in St. Barth from Genesis, West Indies Regatta 2017
Photo: Marie Claude Dubois