Brokers Speak Out: 10 Reasons Antigua Beats St. Maarten

4 December 2008 By Louisa Beckett

The 47th annual Antigua Charter Show got under way December 4, and the fifth MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show begins December 6. Both shows run through December 9, forcing charter brokers to pick one over the other, or island-hop between the two locations.

“I did both St. Maarten and Antigua the first year. It was too much,” says broker Karen Kelly of All Yachts Worldwide, who is only going to Antigua this year. “It’s kind of like Greece and Turkey – they had overlapping dates, and it hurt attendance,” she says, referring to the annual spring charter yacht shows held in those two countries. “The two got together and put the shows farther apart. Now they have good turnout at both shows.”

Hume Jones of Camper & Nicholsons International (CNI) also strongly supports Antigua over St. Maarten. “I was very disappointed by the decision by MYBA to choose to support the St. Maarten Show,” he says, “as I believe that Antigua is a better location for the following reasons:

1. In Antigua it's possible to moor all of the yachts within walking distance of each other, unlike St. Maarten where the marinas are a long distance apart and, with the awful traffic jams, can take ages to get to. Therefore, a broker does not need to hire a car in Antigua and avoids wasting time getting between the boats.

2. It's possible to moor large sailing yachts in Antigua, which are a critical part of our industry, unlike St. Maarten, which restricts draft.

3. Accommodations in Antigua are considerably cheaper than St. Maarten. There's also a wide selection of places to eat in Antigua within walking distance of the show.

4. One of the benefits of boat shows is the ability to network with other brokers, central agencies, crew and ancillary agencies, which is easy to do in Antigua. In St. Maarten, there seems to be no central hub where show attendees gather.

5. Another benefit is to have the chance to go out for a sail or cruise on board a boat for a few hours. This is about the best possible way to see how well a crew operates and a rare ability to assess the suitability of a boat. This is not possible in St. Maarten.

6. The Antigua show always has charitable events (like Fincham’s Follies) that raise money for the local residents, which is hugely appreciated, in particular after hurricane damage.

7. Antigua is the home of yachting in the Caribbean, as opposed to St. Maarten. Antigua should be the home for the charter show – this is country where the charter industry was conceived.

8. Antigua has a better infrastructure for yachting, with top-quality ancillary services (Antigua is famed for its high-quality varnishing and marine electronics).

9. I personally feel very unsafe in St. Martin/St. Maarten.

10. For those flying from the UK there are many direct flights to Antigua, unlike St. Maarten.”

CNI has carried out extensive research into the benefits and drawbacks of the Antigua and St. Maarten shows.

“We asked a number of captains about which location they preferred. The definite response from the majority of brokers, central agents and captains was Antigua,” Jones says. “I hope that we will return to having one charter show in Antigua, to avoid this lunacy of two separate shows which is a complete waste of time and expense.”