The Corporation of St. George's last week unveiled a plan for the development of a luxury yacht marina at Ordnance Island which it hopes will help to revive the town's flagging economic fortunes.
It is a valid idea. St. George's has long been a port of call for visiting yachts, who stop in the town for a break from transatlantic voyages and on the way between the Northeast US and Canada and the Caribbean. Persuading those yachtsmen to stay longer has long been a goal of the town, and one that has become more critical as its cruise ship business has dwindled.
And the town has other advantages too. There are still boatyards and sail making businesses in the town, ample moorings and docks and enough facilities in the form of shops, restaurants, supermarkets and the like to appeal to "yachties". However, making Bermuda a destination for yachts as opposed to a stopping point is more difficult.
Most yachts, motor and sail, seem to like to be able to call in on other islands after relatively short cruises and Bermuda is simply too remote for that.
But Bermuda can do more to encourage the yachts to stay longer, and to be blunt, to leave more money here. One possibility would be to make the "three-week rule" for visitors less restrictive. If a yacht owner wants to spend a month in the summer in Bermuda cruising the harbours and so on, then they should be able to.
Another option would be to make purchases of supplies, marine equipment and the like duty free to visiting boaters. This could be done in the same way that "regular tourists" collect their duty free goods at the Airport. Having said that, just because the Corporation has the idea and has made an agreement with developer Leading Edge Ltd. does not mean it will happen. This is not the first proposal for a mega-yacht marina.
The Corporation drew up conceptual plans for a similar marina and hotel concept at Penno's Wharf some years ago while Carl Bazarian, the developer of the proposed Park Hyatt in St. George's, also pitched a similar marina idea to the town.
Given that, the Corporation has left itself open to criticism in that it did not issue a request for proposals for a marina development before signing an agreement with LEL. At the same time, plans for a luxury yacht marina at Dockyard are still being developed by the West End Development Corporation. There is a market for a luxury yacht marina in Bermuda, but there probably isn't room for two. Both locations have merit, although St. George's is the better established destination now.
But this is a conflict that will need to be resolved. Finally, the plans call for a 60-room hotel at Ordnance Island. Given the current state of Bermuda's tourism industry, any hotel proposals should be welcomed. But it is not at all clear that a 60-room hotel in the heart of St. George's is feasible. To be sure, it makes sense for there to be some accommodation for crew and family flying in to meet yachts or looking for a couple of days on dry land, but the hotel business in Bermuda is expensive and it is difficult to find new hotel developments who are breaking even. So this part of the plan may have to be scaled down.