MARINE TRADES ASSOCIATION WANTS GREATER APPRECIATION OF YACHTINGTuesday 13th March 2012
By Shelton Daniel as published in AntiguaObserver.com on Saturday, May 3, 2012.
St. John’s Antigua- Not a day passes without a flood of information about yachting events and developments being disseminated via email and other means to the local media.
Yet, curiously, outside of the annual Sailing Week, there is very little public mention or discussion of yachting, given it is supposed to be a key plank of the country’s economically vital tourism sector.
Someone in a good position to know concurs that there is not nearly enough public awareness of yachting in Antigua and Barbuda, despite its economic importance as a tourist aggregating sector.
The blunt assessment comes from the President of the Marine Trade Association (MTA) Franklin Brathwaite. He believes too many people only associate the yachting industry with Sailing Week, without realizing that the yachting season runs on a cycle similar to the winter tourist season from December to May.
He is convinced that tangible benefits will accrue if there is more widespread yachting awareness in the country. “In some areas, like the wholesalers and the big supermarkets, we are aware of its economic impact, but the general public is not really of how important it is. This awareness is also absent from some areas of government.”
Brathwaite noted that “yachting has actually grown in Antigua and most of the Caribbean out of trading and it has gone from trading into a major tourism factor, and I think a lot of us still aren’t aware of that. It is looked upon in some areas as something just for the elites to have pleasure, but it is really a major part of tourism in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The MTA head said it is unfortunate that many people are indifferent to yachting because they associate it with a certain social and economic status. The entire country, he believes, needs to be sensitized about how the sector can benefit everyone. “I think it has changed quite a bit over the past four years, but there is still a great deal of that kind of feeling from quite a lot of people.”
Brathwaite is hopeful that the next Sailing Week, which comes up in April, will serve as a further rallying point for Antiguans and Barbudans to appreciate and support yachting as a valuable and integral part of their life, culture and economy.
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