After a bumper year in 2017, Bahamas marinas have been experiencing boom times. Members of the Association of Bahamas marinas are reporting increased arrivals for the first quarter of as much as 60 percent.
“The prospects for boating to The Bahamas look excellent for 2018,” says Stephen Kappeler, president of the Association of Bahamas Marinas. “Boat sales in Florida have been up, reflecting insurance settlements after hurricane devastation in 2017. In fact, boat sales have also been up in other markets from which The Bahamas are now more accessible because of the improved customs processing facilities at Stuart in Martin County, Florida,” he says.
The Okeechobee Waterway, from which Stuart is a major exit point, is the only channel available to cross the state entirely by boat to reach the open seas. This makes it relatively easy for Martin County boaters and others using the waterway to visit The Bahamas. A newly opened US Customs facility at Stuart further simplified access to The Bahamas by avoiding the time and expense associated with clearing at the next-nearest facilities in Fort Pierce or West Palm.
Earlier this year, The ABM and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism capitalised on this advantage in a major promotion in Stuart in the form of a Bahamas pavilion at the Stuart Boat Show.
“Boat owners with new boats need some where to go,” says Peter Maury, ABM past president and operator of the Bay Street Marina, which has seen an increase in boat arrivals of 15 per cent in the first quarter of this year. “The atmosphere at the Palm Beach Boat Show was very upbeat and interest in The Bahamas was high. I believe we’ll have as good a year this year as we did last year, or likely much better,” he said”.
At the Flying Fish Marina on Long Island, manager Andrew Fox is very positive about business prospects for this year, having experienced an increase of 20 percent over first quarter 2017. “We have had to turn boats away on occasion and have a very positive outlook for April, May and June,” he says.
260,000 new powerboats were sold in 2017, reports the National Marine Manufacturers Association, an increase of six percent over the previous year. In the currently buoyant economy and with post-hurricane insurance money in hand, people who are in the market for a new boat are looking at bigger models with bigger motors, which augers well for marinas in The Bahamas.
Sales of large yachts have also been up. The mega yacht industry has been reporting increases of 53 percent in southern Florida. According to a recent study by Thomas J. Murray & Associates, these sales have tripled over the past decade, with the South Florida region being at the forefront of a worldwide boom for mega yachts, vessels 80 feet or larger in size.