A Hot Topic on December 5 praised the Antigua Charter Show, which recently concluded its 2008 edition on December 9. But to be fair, the rival St. Maarten Charter Show, which is held almost simultaneously, also has its share of fans. Based on feedback we received from brokers returning from St. Maarten, there’s a lot to be said in favor of the five-year-old show.
- “If you're looking at the mechanics of the show, it was very well organized by MYBA,” said Neil Moore, director and head of charter management for Burgess. “There were no hitches at all. They had pretty well thought of everything.”
- “Everything was in one location,” he continued. “All the boats were at one marina," making it easier for brokers to get around the show, while maximizing their time on board the yachts.
- Although Antigua typically draws a larger overall fleet and more sailing yachts than St. Maarten, there've been excellent reviews of the yachts that were on display there this year.
“The best thing about the St. Maarten Show is the quality of the boats that are in attendance in the 80-foot to the 200-foot-plus range. The boats are well known in the charter market,” said Daphne d’Offay, charter manager for Chamberlain Yachts. “The retail brokers wind up making an effort to get there because of the boats they are going to see.” Moore agreed. “There were more yachts over one hundred-twenty feet than in Antigua,” he said. “There was good variety.”
- Everyone we spoke with applauded the St. Maarten event’s infrastructure, which included water taxis to transport attendees around the marina. There was a complimentary breakfast every morning that gave show-goers the chance to network and set their daily agendas. “MYBA set up a tented village that provided a place to sit and meet,” Moore said.
- While the parties at the Antigua show are legendary, this year’s St. Maarten show also had its share of fantastic fêtes. Evening events included the annual Taste of St. Maarten, where local restaurants dished up tasty samples of their gourmet fare and dancers from the nearby casinos put on a performance with a Carnevale theme. The last day of the show was toasted with many a sip of Champagne at the celebratory Awards Ceremony.
D’Offay said she was concerned that the Yacht Hops might be cancelled due to owner and crew concerns about the economy. Instead, she said, the Hops went on with all the trappings. “They really outdid themselves. It was a lot of fun.”
- Finally, the dual-citizenship island of St. Martin/St. Maarten itself has a lot of offer visitors, especially the duty-free shopping mecca of downtown Philipsburg, just a 20-minute cab ride from the St. Maarten Charter show venue. “I usually do an afternoon in Philipsburg. You can walk the whole strip,” said d’Offay, who pointed out that the show’s December timing gives attendees a chance to get their Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop.
Still, many brokers agree that in the long term, holding two simultaneous charter shows is not an ideal solution. “I can’t see that it’s in anybody’s interest,” Moore said. But while he is in favor of having just one Caribbean charter show each December, he admitted, “How we achieve that is not so easy.”