CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Public and private sector officials from all nine OECS member states assembled in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, from February 27-28 to engage in a working session geared towards developing an action plan for the yachting sector.
Programme officer at the OECS Secretariat, Dr Loraine Nicholas, says the overall objective of developing this action plan is to create an enabling environment that will contribute to optimizing the economic benefits derived from yachting as a key niche in the region’s tourism industry.
“The yachting sector in the OECS has been identified as offering an ideal opportunity to mobilize the shared benefits of the economic union and is one of the clearest and most obvious avenues to develop the OECS as a single economic space. In light of the archipelagic configuration of the OECS region, comprising nine small islands in close proximity to each other, and linked by arguably some of the best sailing waters in the world, yachting is a prime niche sector in tourism that can be developed and promoted jointly in the OECS. The product offering of ‘many islands, one sea’, with the opportunity to sail between different islands, furnishes considerable appeal to the yachting community and positions the OECS region at a distinct comparative advantage,” Nicholas said.
Additionally, the importance of the yachting sector in expanding and stimulating economic activity in other sectors/areas including: laundry service, taxi service, boat repairs, marine mechanics, food provisioning, insurance and security, watersports, entertainment, photography, retail, and real estate, was also highlighted at the meeting. The value-added by the yachting sector was also reported to exceed that of other types of visitors e.g. cruise passengers, in light of the significant multiplier effect of yachting expenditure.
Notwithstanding the obvious potential for the regional development of the yachting niche tourism product, the OECS officials identified some critical actions that need to be implemented to effectively unlock the sector’s untapped potential. They include:
1. Develop human resources
2. Establish Satellite Accounts with Yachting as a separate account
3. Develop and strategically schedule more sailing events to extend the yachting season
4. Develop an OECS Marine Awareness Guide
5. Strengthen the legislative framework for management of the yachting sector
6. Organise a joint presence at international boat shows
The meeting on the OECS yachting sector was supported by the European Union under the 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region project.
That project, which is being administered by the OECS Secretariat, is being financed out of resources from the 10th EDF regional programme, and seeks to contribute to the establishment of the OECS Economic Union as a single economic and financial space through the development of a harmonized policy, legislative, regulatory and administrative framework, and the enhancement of the institutional capacity and export competitiveness of OECS economies).