“Don’t,” said the new president of MYBA, Neil Cheston, “consider this meeting as a sparring match between Antigua and St. Maarten,” – or words to that effect.
But it was hard not to see it that way.
The meeting of captains, crew, brokers and other industry professionals that took place in Genoa during the 2009 MYBA Charter Show (May 4–8) was the chance for MYBA to hear industry views on whether the association should take the lead in running a Caribbean charter show. It currently manages the St. Maarten Charter Show, although St. Maarten has agreed to release it from its current contract in 2010 – “If,” said Cheston, “that is the chosen path.”
His question about MYBA involvement in the Caribbean met with a more or less deafening silence – strange, given the amount of heated argument surrounding the debate that has been going on outside public forums.
But the issue of MYBA involvement is not what really winds people up – it’s rather the problem of having two Caribbean shows that run either concurrently or back to back, making life exhausting and expensive for the brokers and exhibitors who need to attend both shows. What people really want to discuss is Antigua or St. Maarten as the charter show venue.
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Jeff Boyd, the president of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, promises that a charter show will continue on the island for as long as the market dictates, with or without MYBA involvement. The option of each island hosting a show on alternative years – a suggestion proposed by one broker present – met with an unconditional “no chance” from the Antigua camp.
"We’re not prepared to share the show,” said Janetta Miller, director of the Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting, explaining that the island economy relies very heavily on the ACYM and they can’t (or won’t) jeopardise local jobs.
The eye of this little maritime storm lies exactly here – the economic value of the charter shows to both islands and their dependence on them – leading, if rumour is to be believed, to stories of captains being offered money to support one or the other event.
St. Maarten appears to be the favoured venue for some captains, where they claim provisioning is easier and makes more sense as the best place to begin Christmas charters. As Capt. Dùghall macLachlainn of M/Y Galaxy put it, “My heart is in Antigua, but St. Maarten is more practical.” But senior charter broker Tim Clark of Ocean Independence in the UK disagrees, believing Antigua to be the best place to take prospective clients out on day trips to give them a real taste of a charter cruise.
So, muddy waters prevail and without any clear direction from industry professionals, MYBA Charter Show Committee Chair Fiona Maureso said they will consult with the Florida Yacht Brokers Association, ACYM and the Caribbean Yacht Brokers Association to ascertain if a MYBA-controlled Caribbean show is “a good thing or not.”
“No one,” said Neil Moore of Burgess, “can support both shows; it must change. MYBA should step aside and let the market decide.”
Maybe to an extent the audience had missed the point of the debate – the idea of MYBA involvement is to keep costs down for yachts and the industry and retain any income within the yachting world – unlike other charter show locations that reap huge profits from the yacht shows, but put nothing back into the industry.
The dates of the MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show (www.mybacaribbeanshow.com) will be announced at the end of June but, says Maureso, there will be less of an overlap than last year and, to ease travel between the two islands, MYBA is considering chartering flights for attendees to avoid the stress of lost luggage and flight cancellations. The Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting will be held December 7–11. www.antiguachartershow.com
For news of a proposed new Mediterranean Charter Meeting that has the industry’s interests at heart, see July’s print edition of Dockwalk.
St. Maarten Strikes Back! Six Things Brokers Love About the Charter Show (12/12/08)
Brokers Speak Out: 10 Reasons Antigua Beats St. Maarten (5/12/08)