Oct. 27, 2002 – Preparations are under way for the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League's 28th annual fall show, set for Nov. 7-11 at Crown Bay Marina. More than 55 monohull and multihull sailboats plus powerboats are expected to open their companionways to some 125 charter brokers from the U.S. mainland, the Caribbean and Europe.
Charter brokers are the sales force for crewed yacht vacations. During the show, brokers familiarize themselves with each yacht and its crew so they can effectively pair them up with charter clients.
The USVI show is the oldest in the Caribbean. This year it will follow on the heels of a similar event hosted by the Charter Yacht Society of the British Virgin Islands in Tortola.
Susan Chandler, VICL executive director, says: "There are distinct advantages to having our show last. Years ago, the VICL board of governors decided never to have our shows start before Nov. 7. Too many boats leave during hurricane season, and we don't want to put them at any risk to get here in time for the show.
"Also, the BVI show has a different flavor to it. Ours is unique and offers a larger variety of boats. We also have more owner-operator vessels. Brokers like the fact that with owner-operators they will see more familiar faces and consistency in the crew."
Although the VICL also sponsors a spring show, the fall one "is the most recognized show and attracts a much larger number of boats and brokers than our May show does," Chandler says. "It has been the show that officially kicks off the charter season. The crews spend the off-season doing repairs, painting, replacing upholstery and basically upgrading the boats in preparation for the busy winter season. Everyone comes to this show with high expectations for a strong charter season."
This year, Chandler says, "to give both the boats and the brokers a reason to return to St. Thomas," the viewing of the yachts has been extended by half a day, and lunchtime continuing education seminars will be held daily under the main tent.
"We decided to introduce continuing education seminars at the November boat show to help both boats and brokers become more aware of some of the changes in our industry," Chandler says. "The first seminar will cover the important points brokers need to be aware of when booking a scuba diving-oriented charter. These are very popular charters, and there are many details that the client needs to know before coming here."
At the Nov. 9 seminar, broker Sherry Yates of Yates Yachts will address changes that have taken place in the industry from both the boat and broker sides of the business. "The business has evolved, and we felt it was an important topic to discuss," Chandler says.
A Nov. 10 seminar is on communication as the key to a successful charter yacht vacation. "The teamwork and timely communication that involves between the client, broker, boat and clearinghouse is so vital to the success of each charter." Chandler says.
There will be a two-part, four-hour "new broker seminar" on Nov. 7 and 10 that is mandatory for brokers who have not attended previous St. Thomas shows. Upon completion of the seminar and attendance at the show, participants are recognized as brokers and are eligible to book charters. Aside from seminar fees, there are no costs to brokers for attending the show.
Last year, 25 persons attended the new broker seminar, Chandler says, but this year, only five have signed up so far. "I'm not sure if it has to do with the economy up in the States," she says, "but we are surprised at the small number."
Several social activities are also planned.
On Nov. 8, yacht crews and brokers will get to meet and mingle aboard the Kon Tiki compliments of Cruise Ship Excursions with food and drink by Texas Pit BBQ and West Indies Corp. Andrew Douglas will play on steelpans compliments of Dave's Diesel.
On Nov. 9, the new Sugar Mill Restaurant will host a Mariners Masked Ball, wine tasting and dinner, with Certified Angus Beef, Merchants Market and West Indies Corp. as co-sponsors. Lightning Phil and the Low Pressure System, sponsored by Budget Marine, will provide music.
On Nov. 10, there's be a Pirates Blender Contest at the boat show site.
On Nov. 6, Tickles Dockside Pub will host a welcome party with a buffet dinner with Island Marine Outfitters as co-sponsor. For the occasion, "Crown Bay Marina is bringing back entertainer Freddie Rabuse," Chandler says.
"Sponsorship is at an all-time high," she says. "This really helps us to put on a quality show with the goal of increasing the charter bookings. We have the challenge of trying to grow the industry back to where it once was in the early days of 250 crewed charter yachts."
More good signs, she says, are that VICL membership has grown by 15 over the summer, a traditional slow time, and "bookings for the fall season are running well ahead of last year."
For more information about the show, call 774-3944 or (800) 523-2061, or visit the VICL Web site.
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