Huge superyacht boost
The America's Cup could become one of the largest gatherings of superyachts in the world this year, providing an enormous boost to the economy.
Mark Soares of Bermuda Yacht Services said that not only were around 70 superyachts already in the island's waters, but the bulk of the vessels were expected to remain in Bermuda until the racing concludes.
“The majority of them will likely stay the full six-week period, and I think it will just get busier and busier,” he said. “You will see more activity towards the finals, but we anticipate the majority of boats will stay right up until the end of June, which is massive.
“There's a huge potential legacy impact with this. We hope that exposure from this event, them seeing and meeting Bermudian people, will encourage them to come back.”
As for having the boats on the island during the America's Cup, he said the economic impact would be “massive”.
“Whether it's provisions, fuel, flowers, transportation ... it goes on and on. It will have a huge impact that goes deep into the community through all aspects. The amount of service that we are providing already is really huge.
“Everybody makes out well. The freight forwarders, the florists, the taxi drivers, the people who have to service the yachts by getting rid of sewage and supplying them water.”
Speaking last week, Mr Soares said that America's Cup organisers have long tried to attract superyachts, but this year's event could be the most successful in achieving that goal.
“The type of location and time of year has provided the perfect set-up to get the superyachts to participate,” he said. “The superyacht programme sold out. We have some of the best superyachts in the world here, some of the most iconic. We have the Maltese Falcon, which is an exceptional sailing yacht. We have Vava II, one of the largest motor yachts in the world. We have the likes of some of the beautiful classics such as Columbia on Front Street.”
He said that 26 superyachts were scheduled to be berthed in Dockyard through the superyacht programme, along with nine on Front Street and 15 at the Hamilton Princess.
However, he said there were several superyachts coming to the island outside of the official programme, some moored at the new Caroline Bay Marina or in St George's, while others will remain at anchor.
“It's probably going to be one of the largest gatherings of superyachts in the world this year,” he said. “This is an absolutely massive event for Bermuda. There will be a lot of stress on the infrastructure, but a lot of great opportunities.”
Asked if demand for Bermuda as a superyacht destination could be maintained, he said that it would be unlikely that the island would see such large numbers once again unless we host another America's Cup.
But he added: “I believe business will slowly increase from the exposure that we get. We will definitely get more visitors who stay longer.
“Traditionally Bermuda has been a bunkering and transient fuel stop. Now, having owners on board and exposed to the island, they are more likely to come back and stay for a few weeks and enjoy the island.
“I think it will benefit the island. Having utilities like the Hamilton Princess, Caroline Bay and St George's legitimately makes us a destination they are more likely to come back to.”
Kevin Dallas, CEO of the BTA, said that the value of superyacht visitors for any destination was substantial.
“Superyacht spending touches all aspects of the economy,” he said. “It's particularly impactful for small businesses. We know of a superyacht owner spending as much as $10,000 on fresh flowers in Bermuda not long ago — and that was just one week's worth.
“They like to pick up local produce for on-board meals so local farmers benefit and the crews often eat out — that's a boost to our restaurant sector. Superyachts need laundry services, they use wine and liquor stores and they buy a lot of fuel to power their boats.
“A lot of these business categories are not considered part of the tourism industry, but in a way, that's the point — superyachts are one of the ways we grow the tourism economy and, as a result, improve economic conditions for a wide cross-section of Bermudians.”
He said that in advance of the America's Cup, the BTA carried out research on the market and lobbied the government to make legislative and regulatory amendments to make Bermuda more competitive.
“Our hope is that once government leaders and the rest of the country see the positive economic impact of the superyacht audience during the America's Cup, they will be motivated to take action,” he said. “In the meantime, we are proactively engaging superyacht owners and crew to talk about the great nautical experience available in Bermuda right now and what the BTA is trying to do to make it even better.”