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Printed in The Daily Herald, Wed 13-Oct-2004

Bookings indicate busier than average megayacht season

SIMPSON BAY--With only a month to go before the bulk of luxury megayachts converge on St. Maarten for the start of the winter chartering season, Simpson Bay Lagoon marinas are bracing for a busier than average season.

Yacht Club Isle de Sol shows bookings streaming in earlier than usual, fuelled in part by the island's much anticipated first Charter Yacht Exhibition due to take place December 7-11.

"Bookings indicate we are almost full for the season," reported Isle de Sol's manager James Roidis. "We have seven boats booked for October. To have that number of boats booked at this time has never happened before, and we still have a month and a half to go before it really picks up."

It was a similar story at Isle de Sol's sister facility Port de Plaisance where manager Mario Biabiany said the two marinas were practically fully booked.

Roidis said October bookings reflected megayachts in the 140- to 160-foot range, while several new megayachts of 200 feet will be berthing at Isle de Sol for the first time. The first megayacht to berth at the marina for a long-term stay will be regular visitor 138-foot "Monte Carlo."

"It's exciting. This season will be very good for everybody and the charter yacht show just adds to the momentum," added Roidis.

Some 90 per cent of bookings for Isle de Sol are made directly with the marina by megayachts themselves, Roidis disclosed, and there's no sign of any slowing up in the industry.

"We are often scrambling for space. The demand grows every year," he continued. "Our biggest accolade is to have so many repeat guests who consider St. Maarten their home base due to the services, provisioning and easy airport access."

Commenting on the marine industry as a whole, Budget Marine's Robbie Ferron said well-subscribed transatlantic forays from Europe such as the ARC, and another race from the USA, both of which have arrivals in the Caribbean, were good indicators of a strong season ahead.

"We are seeing an increase of boats in the Caribbean every year and as long as that trend continues, it should compress the remaining demand as much to St. Maarten as anywhere else," Ferron observed. "Our departure tax, however, will still continue to inhibit the boats I think are most attractive to the island."

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