Written by George Grant on March 4, 2015
YACHTING ENTHUSIASTS IN NORTH AMERICA SHARE THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON SAILING IN THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN
OECS Commission —The OECS Tourism Desk has attempted to address the challenge of lack of data to provide policy guidance to further develop the yachting sector.
This was done via a survey conducted in 2014 at the United States Sailboat Show in Maryland, to uncover information that will enhance the development thrust of the yachting sector in the OECS. The findings of the study demonstrate promising potential for the further development of yachting. In fact, an interesting finding from the survey revealed that there is a good chance that the region can benefit from a spike in yachting activity in 2015. Ninety six percent (96%) of survey respondents intend to sail to the OECS in the future. There is a 77% chance that this is a very likely occurrence and a 17% chance that that event will occur.
The countries most favoured to be visited are the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and Dominica. Yachtspersons who sailed the Eastern Caribbean made more visits to the British Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines more frequently than to the other territories in the region.
The survey also finds that 61% of yachtspersons have no knowledge of the existence of the OECS as a regional organisation. This suggests that the region is in large part unknown as a yachting destination by a significant number of yachting professionals and enthusiasts and therefore any marketing strategy developed in response to this has to promote the concept of the OECS region as a single space, but the unique differences of each territory should be highlighted in the strategy.
To this end the survey suggests that an analysis be undertaken of the destinations within the region with a high frequency of yachting activity, to determine the underlying reasons for the popularity of those destinations and that the findings should be incorporated in the long term developmental objectives of the OECS for the yachting sector.
More encouraging news for the OECS Yachting Sector is that the three main motivating factors that account for the likely visit of persons surveyed to the OECS are; sailing or cruising activities, a vacation destination spot and to experience the beauty of the region. Nineteen percent (19%) of respondents indicated that their motivation for visiting the OECS is for sailing and cruising the OECS region. Ten percent (10%) of respondents want to vacation in the OECS region, 9% want to experience the beauty of the region and 8%, fun and pleasure. Thirty three percent (33%) did not state a reason for their likely visit to the OECS.
Among the yachtspersons likely to visit the OECS, 16% intend to visit all of the territories of the OECS. Twenty six percent (26%) are likely to visit the BVI, 3% would like to visit Antigua and Barbuda and 3% Anguilla. One percent (1%) of yachtspersons surveyed indicate a desire to visit St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Less than one percent of yachtspersons intend on visiting Dominica, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Three percent (3%) of yachtspersons were undecided at the time of the survey which country in the OECS that they would like to visit.
The survey suggests therefore that the OECS capitalize on the intent of yachtspersons and promote the other destinations aggressively to sustain a greater spread of visitors throughout the region. The survey also recommends a sustained campaign to ensure that post 2015, there is an average annual increase of yachtspersons visiting the region from the US and Canadian markets.
The OECS Commission is therefore considering a recommended marketing strategy to create an awareness of less popular yachting destinations. The survey also recommends the undertaking of a comparative analysis of each yachting destination to determine their strengths and weaknesses and the reason (s) that some destinations are preferred over others.
A recommendation was also made to encourage those who are likely to visit in 2015 to make return visits. These and other recommendations from the findings have resulted from interviews with a population of yachtspersons.
The sample of respondents comprises persons who visited the Eastern Caribbean Village at the United States Sailboat Show in City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland with/without prior knowledge of the OECS destination. The majority of survey respondents are owners of yachts/boats. The full report on the survey can be accessed via http://www.oecs.org/yachting/