Regattas: Economic Stimulus Packages for Caribbean Islands Impacted by Hurricanes

St Barths Bucket Regatta

Caribbean regatta season is approaching, and this year the regattas will provide a much needed shot of economic stimulus to several islands that were impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September of 2017. With many hotels offline this season, private villa rentals will accommodate visitors associated with these events, and will serve as an important source of revenue for local governments.

The St Barths Bucket Regatta in will be held from March 15-18, marking its 24th year. 26 yachts will be participating this year, according to regatta organizer Peter Craig, down 30% from a year ago, but sufficient to stage a world class regatta with three classes of boats. The St Barths Bucket Regatta is an invitational regatta. The regatta is open to cruising yachts whose length is 30.5 meters (100’) or greater. The ‘Bucket Trophy’ will be presented to the boat which prevails in the ‘most competitive, closely contested class.

Les Voiles de Saint Barth Regatta will be held from April 16-22. This event will have 60 yachts participating according to regatta coordinator Alexandra Lemarchand-Guibout. In addition a race village will be set up on the quay in Gustavia harbor, and live concerts will be staged nightly. Musician Jimmy Buffett returns as the ambassador of the event, and hopes that the regatta will contribute to the full recovery of the island. Official sponsors include Richard Mille, Veuve Clicquot, Code Zero and WIMCO Villas.

These two regattas provide a tangible economic stimulus to St Barths. Each attracts hundreds of incremental visitors to the island including crews ranging from 12-35 per yacht, invited guests of boat owners, sponsors representatives and their guests, suppliers, regatta staff and volunteers, media, as well as people that simply want to be there for regatta week. Add in the super yachts that attend and do not race and you have hundreds of incremental visitors for each event.

The primary beneficiaries of this activity are restaurants, grocery stores, marine services companies, renatl car agencies and villa rental companies. With 90% of local hotel rooms in St Barths closed for repairs this season, visitors staying in private villas that are available to rent by the week from agencies like WIMCO, represent a significant source of revenue for the local government in the form of a 5% visitor tax based on the weekly rental rate paid. WIMCO’s president Stiles Bennet reports that over 60% of their portfolio of 370 private villas have been repaired, inspected and declared open for the season, representing over 600 bedrooms of capacity as of mid-February.

In St Martin, the decision to go forward with the annual Heineken Regatta was announced shortly after hurricane Irma swept over the island. Race director Paul Miller stated that the regatta…” is deeply symbolic, and it’s a rallying point.” While much of the activity from March 1-4 will be off-shore this year to minimize the demands on local infrastructure, the event will have a positive economic impact.

According to an Economic Impact Report conducted in 2004 by accounting firm Hassink & Roos (currently known as Baker Tilly Accounting St. Maarten), the annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is estimated to bring in approximately USD 27.5 million in direct and indirect spending on the island by visitors and participants. The report states that the estimated contribution of the SXM Heineken Regatta to SXM’s GDP is approx. USD 11 million. The estimated additional tax revenues for Government are USD 1.65 million.

Additional regattas in Virgin Gorda (BVI Spring Regatta, March 26 – April 1 ) and Antigua (Antigua Sailing Week, April 28 – May 4) also announced their intention to run as scheduled this year.

Another report on the economic analysis of regattas was done for Newport, RI which hosts 4 regattas a year. Research firm Performance Research conducted a study on behalf of Newport Rhode Island’s Waterfront Commission and found that the average length of stay of visitors for all regattas was 6.5 days. Each competing boat accounted for an average of 3.9 visitors, with the average daily spending per visitor being $191.00. Business categories with the highest spending were food and drinking establishments, hotels, and retail stores. According to Ryan Miller, Chairman of the Newport Waterfront Commission, “This study confirms that sailing regattas are not just fun recreational activity, but they provide measurable economic value to the local economy while involving a low impact on the city and state infrastructure.”

The data will vary for an island vs a drive-to destination like Newport, however the evidence seems strong that the activity generated by regattas in the Caribbean this winter will aid in the recovery of those islands where they are hosted.

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