We just spent Christmas and New Years with well over 600 boats here in St. Anne, Martinique. There have never been this many boats anchored here but this year was different because most cruising sailors are avoiding the northern islands this year because of all the hurricane damage.
The BVI’s, USVI, Puerto Rico and Sint Maarten/St. Martin are pretty much ghost towns, according to sailors who passed through on their way further south this season.
It would seem that the BVI’s and USVI would love to get these sailors and their significant monetary expenditures back into their economy ASAP.
But how can that happen when these sailors have discovered how very nice the southern islands are?
In the southern Caribbean grocery stores are plentiful and cheaper than further north, beaches are uncrowded, beach bars and restaurants have great food and the prices are half of what a sailor pays further north and the locals really like the visiting sailors.
There are two major items the BVI’s can do to get these sailors to return and spend money in their country:
1. Declare a moratorium on mooring fees. Moorings cost $30-$35 in the BVI’s while anchoring further south is free. Why not eliminate mooring fees for a year to entice sailors back to the BVI waters?
2. Eliminate the excessive Customs/Immigration fees for one year. This will also attract sailors back to the BVI’s from further south as well as from the USVI.
With the destruction of the charter fleets, it would seem having the plentiful cruising sailors visit the BVI’s again would help the economy recover more quickly than waiting for new charter boats to arrive from the factories.
The BVI’s need to market their islands and waters once again or the significant visiting sailing community from a year ago will remain only a distant memory and nothing more.