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Trade, Industry, Co-Operatives & CARICOM Affairs

Maritime & Yachting

Maritime & Yachting

“With a new generation of affluent travellers seeking authentic experiences across the Caribbean, it is no surprise that traditional tourism is facing boundary-shifting disruptions, including the disintermediation of traditional hotel industries . . . and the desire for experiential engagement and intimacy. As affluence begets authenticity, so does authenticity command agility on the part of tourism ecosystems.” 

-- Dr Ryan Peterson, Central Bank of Aruba) 

Maritime and Yachting Services Export Performance

The maritime and yachting sector have been developing very well in Grenada over the last few decades, but the sector does not yet seem fully understood by policy-makers in terms of its potential to create jobs and to make a significant contribution to the country’s GDP. The sector is well organised, however, and members have expressed keen interest in engaging in research to determine the key areas in which it might improve its overall value added to Grenada. In terms of developing this sector, the NES 2017–21 emphasises two sub-sectors: 

  • Yachting Services 
  • Cruise-Ship Tourism 

For both, the value-chain and SWOT analyses conducted as part of the strategy development discussions point towards the need to improve the facilitating service infrastructure. Strategy for enhancing ‘Pure Grenada’ branded tourism goods and services is addressed elsewhere (see Tourism Sector); here, analysis and strategy focuses on isolating the strengths of the yachting services and cruise ship sub-sectors, on the basis of which the best approaches to export development can be determined. 

Yachting Services Sub-Sector Export Policy and Strategic Directions

The vision for the yachting services sub-sector in Grenada is: 

Grenada to be recognised as a worldclass destination for yachting tourism and marine services. 

To this end, the following mission statement has been developed: 

To promote, facilitate, and harness the sustainable growth potential of the Marine and Yachting industry of Grenada through marketing, education, advocacy, networking and collective action

Increasing recognition of the important contribution of the marine and yachting services sub-sector to the overall economic contribution of tourism in the Caribbean has resulted in development of a Service Delivery Network (SDN) that is separate from those already serving the tourism sector. In 1999, the Maritime and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) was established with about 25 members; it now has 35 members. An economic impact assessment (EIA) of the sector commissioned by MAYAG revealed that the sector made a net contribution of EC$130.4 million to the economy in 2012 (Henry 2013). 

The report went on to reveal that major contributors were short-staying yachts, long-staying yachts and business expenditure by cruisers, with smaller contributions made by the super-yachts and charter yachts (see Figure 1). These indicators, and the observed geographical . spread of the boatyards in Grenada and Carriacou, imply that the sub-sector has positive impacts on income distribution and poverty alleviation.

Figure 1 Economic Impact of Marine and Yachting Services Sub-Sector

Increasingly, Grenada has been emerging as both a recreation destination for cruisers and a destination to provide boatyard services. This observation suggests a two-pronged strategy that:

  • Hinges on an enhanced tourism product that promotes a well-packaged ‘Pure Grenada’ experience; and
  • Seeks to develop a range of services at the management, technical and skills levels, and at secondary and tertiary levels, to facilitate development of Grenada as a maritime and yachting hub in the Caribbean region.

Important considerations in these regards include:

  • Personal security (for which Grenada ranks very well among Caribbean destinations);
  • The attractiveness of the tourism product (with the GTA responsible for leading continued development of the ‘Pure Grenada’ experience nautical tourism product);
  • The availability of convenient air access (Grenada now has five flights per week to Europe and 13 flights per week to North America);
  • The availability of technical skills;
  • The availability of maintenance services and necessary spare parts;
  • Labour productivity challenges;
  • Closer collaboration with the agricultural sector, including produce farmers and the fisheries sector;
  • Enhanced OECS-wide collaboration;
  • The development of promotion packages focused on the target market;
  • Improved souvenir shopping facilities;
  • The dissemination of information on the positive socio-economic impacts of the sector;
  • The dissemination of information on the sector’s environmentally friendly practices; and
  • The attractiveness of Grenada’s legislative and incentives framework.

In this context, there are six key areas of intervention that require upgrades and priority attention to ensure that Grenada’s yachting services sub-sector can continue to grow and reach its full potential in the medium-to-long term (that is, over the next five or ten years):

  • Marketing Grenada’s yachting and marine services
  • Improving sector data for analysis and planning purposes, for example conducting EIAs
  • Improving the legal and regulatory framework
  • The marine environment
  • Maritime security 
  • Training and education

All will require a large degree of PPP and adequate resources. It is hoped that the implementation mechanisms included within the NES 2017–21 will facilitate this.

 

Marketing Grenada’s Yachting and Marine Services

The implementation of a marketing programme has been identified as a key action that will help to:

  • Increase Grenada’s market share of the regional yacht service industry and improve awareness of Grenada as a cruising destination
  • Improve relations with and raise awareness among the Grenadian public. 

In conjunction with the GTA, MAYAG stakeholders have developed a marketing plan has been that builds on the ‘Pure Grenada’ brand. The plan complements and reinforces the advertising that Grenada’s marine businesses undertake individually. Table 1 lists some of the activities included in the marketing plan. 

Table 1 Activities within Grenada’s marine and yachting services marketing plan

 

Improving Sector Data for Analysis and Planning Purposes 

The regular collection of data and its subsequent dissemination to all stakeholders would be a major aid to effective decision-making. The value of up-to-date information was demonstrated by the EIA conducted in 2013 (Henry 2013). Such surveys and studies should be repeated regularly and should be extended to seek forecasts of key factors such as employment levels, policy and community relations issues. These latter points will enable the industry to better present itself to the general public, government and other stakeholders. 

Improving the Legal and Regulatory Framework 

Grenada’s legal and regulatory environment directly affects the maritime and yachting sector in many ways. The sector’s sustained growth will be conditional upon improvements to Grenada’s legal and regulatory environment that act to: 

  • Improve the yachting visitor experience 
  • Remove bureaucratic bottlenecks in the legal and regulatory environment that increase cost and reduce efficiency in the yachting sector

Specific actions in these regards include: 

  • Improving port-of-entry clearance office operations at each location (to include better facilities, improved customer service training, the introduction of credit card payment systems and the computerisation of accounting);
  • Establishing Grenada and St Vincent and The Grenadines as a single clearance space for yachts; 
  • Increasing the use of SailClear™, an online system for the clearance of vessels in and out of Eastern Caribbean countries; and 
  • Amending the Yachting Act 2000 to include provisions for improving the efficiency of importing parts and supplies, including bulk importation. 

There is little question that there is a direct correlation between the favourability of the legal and regulatory environment and market performance. Grenada’s Yachting Act 2000 offers an excellent example. The Act facilitated considerable growth in the yachting industry in Grenada, the evidence of which can most clearly be seen in levels of employment, which soared from fewer than 100 direct employees in 1999 to some 750 in 2012. Another round of legal and regulatory improvements centered on the priorities outlined would be likely to facilitate further growth. 

The following areas specific to the legal and regulatory framework are proposed, aimed at fulfilling the vision of establishing Grenada as a premier yacht-service and tourism destination: 

  • Improving customs and immigration procedures
  • Improving clearance office procedures
  • Adopting and implementing the SailClear™ clearance system
  • Establishing Grenada and St Vincent and The Grenadines as a single yachting territory
  • Improving core efficiencies for importing parts and supplies
  • Amending the Yachting Act 2000 to enable the bulk importation of goods and supplies. 

The Marine Environment

Grenada’s generally clean marine environment gives the country a competitive advantage over other yachting destinations in the Caribbean such as Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Martin. The preservation of this advantage is a priority.

There is no information or analysis of the impact of yachting on the Caribbean marine environment, but, according to studies conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), more than 80 per cent of marine pollution in the Caribbean Sea originates from activities on land, with the main sources being sewage and run-off from agricultural practices and land use.

Yachting visitors are generally very environmentally aware and keen to minimise their environmental impact. In many cases, their first concern is how to ensure that their waste is disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

Grenada’s concentration of yachts is still very low compared to that of Saint Martin, and areas such as Florida and the Mediterranean. However, there is a need to be proactive in sustaining this status and, in this regard, the following should be considered. 

  • Develop a set of environmental standards for marinas and boatyards, and institute a programme for their implementation. 
  • Work with the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA) and other regional maritime bodies to review Caribbean-wide standards for usage of marine materials. 
  • Work with wider industry (such as the automotive industry) to establish proper disposal facilities for oil and batteries. 
  • Address the disposal of domestic garbage by utilising innovative initiatives such as the Seabin Project.8 
  • Install moorings for yachts in popular anchorages in areas in which coral and other damage is observed. 
  • Remove abandoned and wrecked yachts. 

 

Maritime Security 

It is well known that safety is an extremely important consideration when choosing a yachting destination. This sentiment has been consistently echoed in the global and regional yachting media. Compared with neighbouring islands, Grenada has a good security record ashore and afloat, and yachting visitors generally perceive it to be a safe, friendly country. However, there have been isolated incidents of crimes against people, and outboard and dinghy theft is a regular occurrence.

One MAYAG survey found that 75 per cent of yachting visitors indicated that they were returning visitors, with a remarkable 35 per cent of the total reporting that they had visited Grenada more than six times (Henry 2013). Yachting visitors are especially sensitive to threats to safety and enjoyment: they can move location easily and will choose to go to destinations where these problems do not exist. Crime incidents are broadcast very quickly among the yachting community and published in the yachting press. In this context, it is reasonable to assume that this rate of repeat visits to Grenada by yacht visitors is evidence of a low incidence of crime.

However, in the absence of official data on the incidence of crime in the sector, there is evidence of ill-informed perceptions in some quarters. On a number of occasions, Grenada and the other OECS islands have been reported on in graphical presentations and press articles as the Caribbean region with the highest incidence of crime. The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) collects statistical data on crime and crime against visitors. This qualitative data should be published on relevant print and electronic media.

To provide accurate and timely information about any specific incidents and the extent of yacht crime in Grenada, and therefore to improve perceptions and reduce the negative publicity Grenada sometimes receives in the marketplace, the following measures are proposed.

  • Produce and publish accurate yacht crime statistics for Grenada.
  • When a crime occurs, provide victim support by means of a team that includes representatives from MAYAG, the RGPF and the GTA. For a yachting visitor, this may include transport (to and from the police station), communications (in the event that the victim cannot access a phone, for example, or may leave the island) and follow-up information (for example on progress in finding the perpetrator). (Note that the latter facility already exists between the GTA and the RGPF, and the hospitality protocol is led by the GTA’s product development manager.)
  • In this regard, ensure too that a police report is readily provided to the victim. Such a report is essential to any insurance claim.
  • When a crime occurs, release accurate information regarding any increased threat to other boats and whether the perpetrator has been apprehended. The following pro-active steps to reduce crime against yachts and yachting visitors are also recommended. 
  • Improve the presence and visibility of the Coast Guard in Carriacou. 
  • Review the opportunity for further liaison and co-operation between the St Vincent and The Grenadines and Grenada Coast Guard (North) and the Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada Coast Guard (South) in the event of theft near the border. 
  • Provide customer service and communications training for Coast Guard officers to improve relations with the yachting community. 
  • Increase the number of regular patrols of anchorages to increase the visibility of the Coast Guard at appropriate points. 

Training and Education 

Grenada’s yachting industry suffers from a shortage of trained Grenadians to fulfil the demands for experienced marine skills, especially in relation to technical systems. The marine industry tends to be perceived as a valuable and rewarding option only by those who have direct experience of it either themselves or via family members. It remains an unknown quantity to the wider population as a significant source of employment. Yachting industry skills are very varied, but can be categorised into service, technical and sailing. 

  • Service employees include dock masters, fuel operators, boat cleaners, and customer service and administrative staff. The skills required can largely be taught within the existing vocational training framework and can be achieved in a short period. Frequently, skills such as administration and accounting can be quickly cross-trained from other industries. 
  • Technical contractors and employees require a higher level of education and training, followed by a period of on-the-job experience or an apprenticeship in engineering and boat repair trades.
  • Sailing specialists require both theory training and practical sailing experience, and include skippers, crew and deckhands. 

It is widely agreed within the yachting industry that Grenada does not have the education or training programmes in place to provide the required technical or sailing skills. However, an education and training needs assessment (ETNA) has been undertaken and recommendations discussed with the NTA. The next step in the training plan will be the development of vocational standards. Training programmes, including an apprenticeship scheme, must then follow as a matter of urgency. 

It is important to note too that the success of the training plan will also rely on raising awareness by means of the recommended sub-sector-specific marketing plan (see Table 1).

Cruise-Ship Sub-Sector Export Policy and Strategic Considerations

The mission statement for the cruise-ship sub-sector in Grenada is: 

  • To provide a cruise experience of a consistently high quality that is globally competitive and which continues to increase its contribution to the economic development impacts of Grenada’s tourism sector, by means of emphasis on standards development and certification of service providers, efficiency enhancement and effective promotion.

The proposed strategic goals for the sector are laid out in Table 2.

Table 2 Strategic Options for Cruise-Ship Sub-Sector

In recent years, Europe has emerged as the newest and fastest growth market in the cruise industry. This has been attributable to two major factors, as follows.

  • Europe has been growing its capacity by introducing new and bigger ships. By 2015 Europe had recorded a fleet of 114 ships compared to 165 in North America (Cruise Industry News 2017).
  • US-based cruise lines are sourcing more passengers in Europe and dedicating more vessels to the European market.

According to the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) 2015 Cruise Industry Overview, the Caribbean ranks as the dominant cruise destination, its share comprising more than a third (35.5 per cent) of the global market (FCCA 2015).

After recovering from Hurricane Ivan in 2005, steady increases in cruise-ship arrivals in Grenada were recorded until 2009, when a declining trend set in. While this declining trend was largely attributable to the 2007–08 global financial crisis and resulting decline in disposable income globally, and was observed to a greater or lesser extent in other 

CARICOM member countries, deeper analysis points towards specific areas that, if addressed effectively, have the potential to restore Grenada’s competitive edge in the cruise-ship sub-sector in the region.

Research has revealed that cruise companies tend to rotate their schedules to keep their offerings fresh. Responding to this trend in destination selection will therefore require Grenada to constantly enhance the service/product/ experience offered to the cruise-ship passenger. This, in turn, requires the investment of resources in continued product development and in market awareness programmes both to guide product development among stakeholders in Grenada and to effectively communicate the product/service offering to the marketplace.

With respect to consumer preferences, while a shift towards adventure and community tourism is becoming increasingly evident among cruise-ship visitors, the Caribbean continues to be known in the market as a ‘sand, sea and sun’ destination. Recent initiatives by Grenada to develop, launch and promote its ‘Pure Grenada’ brand, which encompasses the social, cultural and physical characters of Grenada, must be sustained to continue to offer visitors more: the adventure, romance and lifestyle of Grenada. Collaboration among CARICOM member countries in developing regional strategies for sector development should also be sustained, including the increasing regional emphasis on community tourism and agro-tourism.

The nature of the cruise-ship visit requires targeted products. Generally, the visitor spends only an average of 12 hours on Grenadian ground and there is usually no time to compensate for, or correct, any mistake made. The experience may be a first – and therefore a lasting – one and so the service provider must always get it right.

This one-day experience must also be seen as a platform and opportunity from which to grow the stay-over segment of the tourism sector.

Vendors in the informal sector, taxi drivers and tour operators are seen as key service providers in this market, and must therefore be specifically targeted to benefit from standards training and certification programmes. Importantly, tour operators need to be helped, through customised programmes, to enhance the quality of the experience that they make available to their guests. In this regard, training in understanding and taking ownership of the ‘Pure Grenada’ brand and the highlights that can be packaged within a one-day tour will be critical.

A slower-than-expected pace of global economic growth and lower levels of disposable income demand a service/product offer that gives value for money and is price-competitive. This requires Grenada to be extremely quality-competitive, as well as to develop careful niche market promotions. As an additional strategy, issues of high operating costs, including high energy costs and high costs of access to finance, need to be tackled towards improved cost-efficiency and service providers in the informal sector might benefit from training in costing their offerings.

In recent times, an increasing trend towards larger cruise ships has been observed. This has resulted in lowering unit costs for cruise companies and the lowering of the cost of cruise holidays relative to stay-over holidays. For Grenada, this trend means continued investment to enhance port logistics to better accommodate mega-ships and improved passenger throughput at passenger terminals to justify any passenger charges levied to finance these investments.

Given the market environment, promotion efforts should target Europe but should include the Caribbean. The statistics on tourist arrivals by country of origin suggest that European consumers already demonstrate a preference for Grenada’s overall tourism product. This preference can be leveraged to target Europeans interested in lower-priced multidestination Caribbean holiday packages.

Progress with the implementation of the CSME is expected to result in the growth of intra-CSME business, including tourism. The cheaper option of a multidestination Caribbean cruise relative to travel by air for hotel stay-overs presents Grenada with an opportunity and, in this regard, neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago and other OECS countries are a market waiting to be tapped.