Occupancies at marinas have dwindled down to almost nothing due to The Bahamas’ COVID-19 lockdown measures and hurricane season, Romora Bay General Manager and Association of Bahamas Marinas executive Joe Dargavage said Tuesday, adding that mixed messages about this country’s acceptance of boaters has kept potential business away.
Dargavage, who was a presenter for the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s yachting webinar, explained that while there is excitement in the boating community in Florida about coming to The Bahamas in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, mixed messages have caused boaters to sail north or down into the Caribbean.
“You have a number of them who recently have gotten very excited about doing more charters in The Bahamas and then with the tougher protocols and then with the lockdown, they decided to make some other choices and go north or go towards the Caribbean,” said Dargavage.
“In the media it has been a little bit tough. We never once completely blocked yachts at any time from coming into The Bahamas or Americans. However, some outlets interpreted it that way, including one of the major networks just this morning, that said that Americans were not welcomed in The Bahamas. I think we have our work cut out for us.”
Despite this, he said a major charter brokerage firm recently booked $2 million worth of business into The Bahamas. He added that yachters are still considering The Bahamas despite the country’s COVID-19 measures, which includes a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
“I had a very positive conversation with the president of one of our major charter brokerage firms this morning… and he told me they are 100 percent behind The Bahamas,” he said.
“They understand that the governments have tough decisions to make.”
Dargavage said when The Bahamas first reopened its borders to boaters, marinas were full. But now Isaias, the first hurricane to pass through the island chain and another nationwide lockdown has cause a decline in boaters and yachters.
He said on Harbour Island, where the Valentines and Romora Bay marinas are the two largest, the slip occupancy has dropped to zero.
“It’s something we will have to work on,” Dargavage said.
“It’s hurricane season and occupancy is not just about COVID-19. Once we had a hurricane scare, a number of vessels also left and that happens every year around this time.”
He said many of the avid boaters are likely to return around late October or early November.