Tour boat firms in storm over Covid-19 rules that sunk SailGP charters – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Tour boat firms in storm over Covid-19 rules that sunk SailGP charters

SailGP Teams get in last minute preparations before the big event (Photographs by Blaire Simmons)

A tour boat operator has appealed to the Government to back the industry after the loss of thousands of dollars of bookings for high-profile yacht race SailGP because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The operator – who asked not to be identified – said the business had more than $10,000 in bookings for the weekend, but restrictions introduced to allow only one household on a boat forced the business to cancel them.

The company added that when they contacted the Department of Health, they were told the industry “wasn’t considered” when the rules were drawn up.

The operator said: “We were just lumped in with recreational boaters.

“It’s not right that we are not considered when other non-essential businesses are considered – this is what we do for a living.”

The company added said that boats had been hired for international journalists to follow the event, which could have led to more business in the future, but the opportunity was lost.

The operator said: “This was a huge event being televised and written about and photographed and we had a chance to be a part of that. And now we don’t.

“We can take the boat out with our kids and that’s it.”

The company added that the Government had offered operators support, but it was only enough to cover a single charter.

The operators said the company had about 200 charters last year, and had seen SailGP as a way to help keep the business afloat.

They added: “Finally we thought we could have a decent April and maybe we would get two thirds of what we made in April 2019. That was my hope.

“People were excited to see people out on the boat, but then these restrictions came.”

The operator said other businesses had been allowed to reopen with people from more than one household inside, but the tour boat industry had been ignored.

They said: “We are outside. Our entire operation is outside, and the people who come are in the same bubble – people who see each other all the time.

“We had tourist requests for this weekend and tourists have different rules, so could we take them out?

“They are interacting with hotel employees with masks.

“Why can’t they come on our boat and interact the same way?”

The operator said locals had kept the industry alive over the pandemic., but warned it was only a matter of time before businesses had to close.

The firm said: “We were taking charters for the first month at cost – we didn’t make a cent just to make sure our crew could get paid and everyone else can get paid so we could count on those people when we got out of it.

“If this goes on much longer, a lot of us are going to be out of business.”

The operator added that the loss of business for tour boats hit other sectors.

The firm said: “In 2019 we spend more than $100,000 in catering, but we spend a third of that last year.

“We are not spending money, we are not buying merchandise for ourselves, we are not buying catering, we are not buying beverages, we are not buying fuel and we are not paying our crew.

“For someone to say we were not a consideration is crazy.”

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Published April 26, 2021 at 8:03 am (Updated April 26, 2021 at 6:13 am)

Tour boat firms in storm over Covid-19 rules that sunk SailGP charters

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