Yacht charter market sets sights on pre-COVID growth

Yacht charter market sets sights on pre-COVID growth
Joe Dargavage (file photo)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The yacht charter market continues to show positive signs, according to a well-known marina operator, with the industry hoping to get back to its pre-COVID growth.

While addressing a yachting webinar yesterday, Joe Dargavage, managing partner at Romora Bay Resort and Marina noted that the marina industry in The Bahamas had enjoyed “banner years” prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Up until COVID we had banner years,” Dargavage said.

“We look forward to getting back to that.  We see no reason why once we get through this pandemic that we can’t get back to that. Before COVID we had just spent six months coming off of Hurricane Dorian’s carnage on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

“We felt we had moved a long way coming into January with so many marinas having already been reopened. Ninety-five percent of marinas were unaffected,” he said.

Dargavage said that despite the fall-out from COVID-19, there are still positive signs emerging from the yacht brokerage and charter market.

“You have number of them who recently have gotten very excited about doing more charters in The Bahamas and then with the tougher protocols and then the lockdown, they decided to make some other choices and go north or go towards the Caribbean,” he said.

He continued: “However, I had a very positive conversation with the president of one of our major charter brokerage firms and I asked him that question specifically and he told me they are 100 percent behind The Bahamas. They understand that the governments have tough decisions to make and he assured me that their company just in the last few weeks booked over $2 million worth of charters just in The Bahamas. That’s a good sign from the charter and brokerage market.”

Dargavage acknowledged that the industry has taken a hit due to international media coverage on the country’s COVID-19 travel restrictions and protocols.

“In the media it has been a little bit tough,” he said.

“We never once completely blocked yachts at any time from coming into The Bahamas or Americans, however some outlets interpreted it that way. One of the major networks just this morning that said that Americans were not welcomed in The Bahamas. I think we have our work cut out for us.”

Dargavage said: “When the borders first opened on July first, occupancy was very very good, it was nearly 100 percent in most of the major marinas for the first two weeks. That has dropped dramatically in the last week and now I can say in Harbour Island the occupancy is zero at the two marinas. It’s hurricane season and occupancy is not just about COVID-19. Once we had a hurricane scare a number of vessels also left and that happens every year around this time.”