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Legislation needed for superyacht legacy

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superyacht (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Swift changes to legislation will be crucial in the quest to attract the superyachts to Bermuda beyond the America’s Cup.

This is according to Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Kevin Dallas, who gave a presentation yesterday morning titled Superyachts: Securing a Legacy Benefit of the 35th America’s Cup.

The presentation was accompanied by a panel discussion led by St George’s mayor Quinell Francis, senior manager at the Ministry of Economic Development’s Business Development Unit Lydia Dickens, and the BTA’s chief product and experience officer Pat Phillip-Fairn.

According to a survey for superyacht customers, 89 per cent of respondents said they would recommend Bermuda as a destination to other superyacht owners.

The real challenge, the meeting heard, is getting them to return time and time again for prolonged periods.

One of the main factors that could possibly hold Bermuda back as a superyacht destination is restrictions on the ability of visitors to charter their vessels when in port. While laws were relaxed allowing them to do so during the America’s Cup that will come to an end this month.

Mr Dallas said: “This legislation should become permanent, although we recognise the need to protect Bermuda’s domestic charter boat owners in that industry.

“We need to relax the laws in a way that gives the bigger boats an incentive to visit and stay but not set them up to compete with our own charter industry. There is nothing like this normally present, with the possible exception of The Venetian.

“We don’t want them doing day trips to the Vixen but we might want them to do term charters [long-term charters].

“We have to look at the opportunities and potential pitfalls.”

Ms Phillip-Fairn added: “I would recommend stand-alone legislation or something that supplements other legislation and provides a framework for regulation.”

There were 100 respondents to the survey from a database of captains, crew members, owner reps, yacht managers and charter managers in March this year.

Bermuda’s infrastructure was highlighted as another significant contributor to the success of a future superyacht-oriented economic pillar. The development of the Hamilton Princess Beach Club and Hotel, and Caroline Bay Marina, doubled the number of superyachts Bermuda was able to accommodate.

However, Mr Dallas said more needs to be done, adding: “The rudimentary stuff is there, we need to decide how to use those assets.”

He said that former America’s Cup host Auckland presented “an interesting parallel” to Bermuda. The city hosted the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000, using it as a catalyst to develop their waterfront as a superyacht hub over a 40-year period.

Auckland introduced key duty and tax legislation to make the jurisdiction more appealing, created youth sailing programmes, career training and opportunities and developed its infrastructure.

“Some of the things that we have been dabbling in here have been some of the critical success factors over there,” Mr Dallas said.

“People were saying they were wasting their money. It was a slow burner but it was a huge success for them.”

Speaking on the lack of progress on the building of a new marina in St George’s, Ms Francis said that crucial legislation had been delayed over the course of the last two administrations, thereby delaying the go-ahead.

“I hope to see legislation approved in the next sitting,” she said. “The marina is the way to go because facilities are one of the things we know that the superyachts want.”

The development of a refit and repair industry is also a major contributory factor in encouraging superyachts to visit and stay, according to Mr Dallas.

“Refit, repair and yacht services is a critical way that we will get them not just to stop here, but to stay longer,” Mr Dallas said.

Last year, there were 68 superyachts [above 30 metres] in Bermuda staying for an average of 7.4 days. The economic impact of them being here was estimated to be between $1 million and $3.5m depending on whether or not the owners or guests are on board or just the crew.

“We have no accurate data on this, but given that we know that most of those boats last year had just crew on board we think the impact was at the lower end,” Mr Dallas said.

From May 26 to June 30 this year there are approaching 100 superyachts here and they are expected to stay longer than last year due to the temporary relaxation on charter regulations. The average America’s Cup charter yacht stay is 40 days, according to the presentation.

In terms of their spending in Bermuda — at the lower end a 30-40 metre yacht with crew only could spend $7,000 per week but at the high end an 80-90 metre yacht with owner, guests and crew on board could spend as much as $127,000 per week.

Mr Dallas said superyacht owners were spending their dollars on “things that benefit all of us” economically including babysitters, chauffeured transport, unique retail experiences and personal fitness instructors.

Another major incentive for superyachts would be the opportunity to race while visiting, cementing the BTA’s drive to attract more sail races and regattas to our shores.

The May 7-12 Oyster Regatta Bermuda 2018 is described as an America’s Cup legacy event. It will be the first time the Oyster regatta is hosted in Bermuda and is expected to attract 24 Oyster yachts. The Moth World Championships are also scheduled to take place here next summer.

Bermuda beat Argentina and Australia in the world bidding process for the Moth World Championships in 2018 — another first for the island. Some 150 sailors are anticipated to participate.

Finally, the Atlantic Anniversary Regatta is scheduled to take place here next June, attracting yachts and superyachts once more. The race will include Bermuda on its return leg of the cross Atlantic race.

According to the presentation, Bermuda also has the opportunity to market itself as the “foiling capital of the Atlantic” after hosting the “pinnacle of foil racing” in the 35th America’s Cup.

Bermuda can be a place where foiling vessels can train, test and ultimately race.

Respondents said they enjoyed Bermuda’s beaches, sailing, diving, natural and cultural sites and water sports. The BTA’s research recommendations include focused advertising in those areas. However, one thing they were not as keen on was Bermuda’s isolation.

The only other “thread of negativity” in terms of Bermuda as a destination was the cost of goods and services, according to Ms Phillip-Fairn; even the super-rich care about value for money, it appears.

superyacht (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
superyacht (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
superYyacht: Vava II (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
America’s Cup: a single superyacht during the America’s Cup in Bermuda could spend as much as $127,000 per week on local goods and services
superyacht (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
superyacht: Dockyard (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
The Northern Star in St. Georges Harbour (Photograph by Akil Simmons)