Barbados continues to attract yachts owned by the rich and famous, but the island needs to do more if it wants to become a major magnet for these luxury vessels.
Recently, La Masquerade, a US$94 million super yacht owned by British business tycoon and billionaire Sir Robert Ogden docked at Port St Charles Marina in St Peter.
Sources said Sir Robert, who is also heavily involved in horse racing, was a regular visitor, and has celebrated the new year here before.
The island has attracted similar vessels in the past, including the US$475 million Eclipse, the world’s largest super yacht, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
There is a view, however, that Barbados will only continue to scratch the surface of this tourism niche because its facilities and regulations are under par.
In Government’s new Tourism Master Plan, several recommendations were made to adddress the problem. Officials said the absence of a national marina was “the single most important issue affecting boating/yachting in Barbados”.
“The provision of such a facility would resolve most of the issues that this aspect of our tourism faces. The two marinas already constructed in Barbados are small, high end, self-contained marinas that are limited in their capacities to accommodate a large number of yachts as well as the mega yachts. In addition, these facilities are outside of the range of localities for the average person (local or visitor) wanting to get involved in sailing/yachting, who also want to be near the hub of activities in Barbados,” the report said.
“The [Barbados Tourism Invesment Inc] is spearheading the initiative to provide adquate marina services in Barbados, and is well advanced towards the acquisition of design and construction services for this proposed facility. However, this is a very expensive undertaking and may not be on stream in the short term, but will most likely be a reality during the lifetime of the [Tourism Master Plan].”
It added: “There are several issues relating to this sub-industry which when resolved would allow Barbados to take its rightful place among the lead countries in the Caribbean as a first class location to house international events and accommodate all sizes of boats and yachts. Among others, these issues would include the provision of a marina and upgrade of the Careenage inner basin, both of which are in BTII’s project pipeline.”
The report said there was “significant potential for the further rapid development of sailing and yachting in Barbados”, and noted that based on stakeholder feedback, led by the Barbados Sailing Association, “the way forward must involve the provision of better facilities, improved customer service from agencies like Customs and Immigration, particularly services provided at the point of entry, better enforcement of laws and regulations that are on the statue books, upgrade of current outdated legislation and the introduction of new legislation that would make this sub-industry current”.
The current challenge for Barbados was that “owners and or operators of yachts do not want to go to commercial ports since they do not afford the privacy they require, and also they have to be boarded and inspected on a first come, first served basis with other vessels in port”.
“This can prove to be frustrating and time consuming. Hence, in the absence of a marina, they remain in the open waters of Carlisle Bay. This may not always be accommodating, as sea conditions in open water may be hostile due to prevailing sea swells and so on. For these reasons, many of the larger yachts avoid coming to Barbados”.