By YOURI KEMP
Marina operators yesterday said The Bahamas “was on it” at the world’s largest boat show in a bid to lure more yachting business and aid post-Dorian recovery efforts.
Joe Dargavage, vice-president of the Bahamas Marinas Association (BMA), and owner of Romora Bay Resort and Marina, said the private sector joined with Ministry of Tourism representatives to tell attendees at the 60th annual Fort Lauderdale Boat Show that most of this nation remains open for boating and yachting business.
“The media got the message out that there was a lot of damage in The Bahamas,” he told Tribune Business. “But, at the same time, many people around the world thought that the entire Bahamas was destroyed.
“And so we have to get the message out that that’s not true. We need people to continue to come to The Bahamas. With them coming, that helps with relief efforts because that is money coming to The Bahamas.”
Mr Dargavage said senior Association executives and Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism, met with yachting professionals and companies that did business in The Bahamas, such as Freeport-based Bradford Marine, along with industry associations.
“The single biggest day for the week in the five-day show was on Friday,” he recalled. “The Bahamas was on it at the boat show as Peter Maury, president of the BMA, along with minister for tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar, and myself were all over the place.
“Maury and I took Mr D’Aguilar on a tour of the entire boat show. We had sit down meetings with yachting professionals and owners of big companies that do business in The Bahamas, including Bradford Marine of Fort Lauderdale and Freeport; National Marine based out of Fort Lauderdale; the US Super-Yacht Association; and the International Yacht Brokers Association. We had a meet with all of these organisations to talk about public-private partnerships with the Government.
“We were able to speak in front of many groups of people at the boat show in front of hundreds of people interested in The Bahamas. People come from all over the world. This is the world’s largest boat show. This is also the 60th anniversary of the boat show. It was also a great chance for the people to say thank you for their [Dorian] donations, and thank you for continuing to give to the relief efforts.”
Mr Dargavage continued: “After Hurricane Dorian the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the Bahamas Marinas Association, set forth immediately that the majority of The Bahamas was not touched. We were all very involved.
“We got the message out 24 hours after Hurricane Dorian had passed that the hurricane was very pinpointed only on Abaco and Grand Bahama, but the bottom 90 percent of The Bahamas was perfectly fine. We knew leading up to the boat show with all of the hotels and partners that this would be the single biggest boat show we have ever done.
“It so happens that the Ministry of Tourism had designed a new booth, and all of our industry partners got to spend time in the booth. Marina dock masters from around The Bahamas also came to the show to work in the booth.”
The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation in a statement that yacht charter operators, brokers and owners were presented with multiple options for cruising in The Bahamas. Branded the “greatest boat show on the seven seas”, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show attracts around 110,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors representing 52 countries.
Carla Stuart, the Ministry’s senior director of cruise and maritime, said: “It is important for us to take advantage of opportunities to meet one-on-one with influencers in this industry. We have to be able to present to the respective groups and entertain any questions that they may have, so that we can see how much more we can help them and really spread the message that The Bahamas is the place that you want to bring your yacht. These meetings are extremely important because they provide an opportunity to be more personal with people in this industry.”
The Ministry of Tourism added: “The message that The Bahamas is open for business was well received by many, who expressed a keen interest in participating in familiarisation trips to The Bahamas. Christina Norris of Oversee Yachts was one of them.”
Ms Norris said: “I am a designer of yachts and many of my clients would love to come and visit. Ninety percent of my clients always have The Bahamas as a destination that they want to visit. I absolutely want to visit in a familiarisation trip because if you are excited about a place then you can get your clients excited to go as well.”
The Ministry of Tourism added that Rebecca Riley of Paradise Yachts has a yacht that will be chartered to The Bahamas in a few weeks. Ms Riley said: “We have been to The Bahamas many times. The interest is still very high in The Bahamas and we are happy that the message is being sent that The Bahamas is still alive.”
In addition, president of the International Super-yacht Society, AJ Anderson, said: “I know a lot about The Bahamas because I grew up as a captain there. I recommended The Bahamas many times before but, after the presentations, I am even more inclined to send as many yacht owners as I can to this beautiful country.”