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BTA working hard for a busy superyacht season

Mark Clarke, left, and Jill Dill are working to bring more superyachts to Bermuda (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Superyachts are so popular right now, some dealers cannot keep them in stock.

Yacht sales have actually doubled since 2019, according to maritime data company VesselsValue.

“Superyachts have become the newest toys,” BTA tourism consultant Mark Clarke said.

And that bodes well for Bermuda’s future as a superyacht destination.

Last year, 49 superyachts – boats longer than 78ft – visited Bermuda bringing in $1.4 million in revenue. This year, the BTA hopes to increase superyacht revenue by 25 per cent.

“This is another entry point for Bermuda tourism which has not been fully explored before,” BTA experience manager Jill Dill said. “The 25 per cent could be split in a number of different ways. If we get 11 boats by X number of feet that could sustain it, or it could be 24 boats at X number of feet.”

The BTA have been trying to raise superyacht tourism since legislation was enacted in 2020 to encourage it. The legislation allows transit, cruising and charter permits along with no passenger head tax. Import equipment, furnishings, fittings, and parts are duty-free.

“2022 is a reset,” Mr Clarke said. “The fair measurement will be 2023 and 2024. That is when everything will be revved back up. That is when we should have our products revitalised. Anything that happens now is our time to reflect, rebuild and make sure we do a product that gets people back.”

So far, things are looking good for the upcoming tourism season, generally. According to the BTA, hotel occupancy is near 100 per cent for the month of June.

“We are praying for a busy season and working hard to have one,” Ms Dill said. “But these vessels and people who influence where they go, they don’t all turn on a dime and say let’s go to Bermuda. Bermuda is a bit isolated. It is a commitment of a few days to come here.”

The aim is to get people to stay for longer than a day or two. Bermuda allows superyachts to stay here for three months, but if they leave and go out of Bermuda waters and then return, that time resets.

Mr Clarke said building out more events would help with their cause. He said big sport fishing tournaments and races such as the Newport Bermuda Race and the Marion to Bermuda race, for example, were great draws for superyachts.

“We have these great calendar events that we have to advertise so that people know they can come and hang out,” he said. “We could build out Heroes Weekend.”

Ms Dill said typical superyacht owners are getting younger.

“So their desires are a little different,” she said. “We have to move in lockstep with these owners. They are more casual. They love adventure. When they travel they love to engage in the largesse of wealth but also want to engage in something meaningful around the world. Climate change might interest them, or conservation of a near extinct species. They might be interested in reef health or ocean health.”

She has been building relationships in the superyacht community.

“Although there are thousands of these vessels around the world, the community is relatively tightknit,” she said. “Just to say we are open for business does not really resonate. We have been partnering with marketing companies that are very well respected and entrenched in the industry. In particular, Boat International has taken us on as a destination partner. With them comes the introduction of Bermuda to a very targeted audience.”

Ms Dill said superyachts brought many benefits to the community. Often, crews will navigate the boat to Bermuda and the owners will fly in on a private jet, stay in a hotel for a night or two and then board the boat. Sometimes entire crews stay in hotels during crew changeovers. Small local tenders also cater to the larger boats. And those who do come in on the boats eat in local restaurants and shop in Bermuda stores.

“The port is part of the experience,” Ms Dill said.

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Published April 28, 2022 at 7:43 am (Updated April 29, 2022 at 12:56 pm)

BTA working hard for a busy superyacht season

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