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New catamarans, new resorts, new restaurants showcased at 1st Virgin Islands Boating Exhibition

by VIPCA 29 Nov 2023 08:59 PST May 10-12, 2024
Lagoon 51 © Lagoon / Nicolas Claris

Test drive the latest experience in yacht buying at the first-annual Virgin Islands Boating Exhibition (VIBE).

Set for May 10-12, 2024, at Yacht Haven Grande St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands and organized by the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA), the stage is set for this 2.0 boat show that combines an exclusive boutique 'vibe' in a tropical paradise destination all under the U.S. flag.

It's the perfect platform for the trailblazing main event: a chance to stroll the docks to see a curated showcase of new yachts and then take them for a test drive just beyond the marina in one of the world's most spectacular cruising grounds. The secondary event is a Food and Wine Caribbean experience, producing an event unlike any other boat show. Already, Lagoon, Bali, and Fountaine Pajot are all on board as exhibitors.

"These yachts were built for crystal-clear turquoise waters and sun-drenched beaches, which is why America's Caribbean Paradise is home to a flourishing charter yacht industry and why St. Thomas is the perfect backdrop for this boutique, luxurious, and intimate show. VIBE delivers a state-of-the-art yachting experience in a climate of Caribbean culture; it's the first truly 'destination-style' boat show," says Oriel Blake, Executive Director, VIPCA.

Lagoons on display

Brand new 2024 Lagoons, featured by Lagoon Catamarans and the Caribe Yacht Group, will be on display at VIBE. These include the flagship Lagoon 77, also marketed as the Lagoon SEVENTY7, the Lagoon SIXTY7 power catamaran, and two new designs in the Lagoon 55 and Lagoon 51. These models have been shown globally, but VIBE will mark the first display of these vessels fully kitted out with luxury interior and exterior design elements, the latest toys, and a full crew. This means show attendees can get unique-to-VIBE a fully immersive experience on a test drive, whether soaking up the sights of St. Thomas and the Caribbean Sea on spacious comfortable flybridges outside, or inside through large vertical saloon windows.

"Lagoon catamarans are favored by both private owners and those interested in charter management due to their reputation for quality, comfort, and performance. Our yachts offer a combination of features and support that cater to a wide range of preferences and needs, making them a versatile choice for both private use and charter operations," says Aurore Bordage, Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based marketing manager, Groupe Beneteau.

Since 1984, Lagoon has built over 7,000 catamarans from 40' to 78' LOA, underscoring the Bordeaux, France-headquartered manufacturer as a world leader in this market.

Luxe vacation experience awaits

St. Thomas is known as a fine dining destination. Cutlass & Cane, the newest restaurant in Yacht Haven Grande St. Thomas, is a superb example with its Michelin-worthy seafood menu, crafted mixology offerings, and opulent decor all set waterfront. Cutlass & Cane has partnered with VIBE to produce the show's 'Food & Wine Experience' with lunch served from Noon to 3 p.m. including wine pairings daily. Tickets can be purchased as an add-on to any General Admission VIBE ticket and are included in VIP tickets. General Admission VIBE ticket sales start at $49 per day, plus the Food & Wine Experience add-on at $49.

"Our chefs have been formally educated and trained in some of the best restaurants all over the world, yet we are very much still Caribbean with a sophisticated, international flair," says owner, Alafia Rawlins. "As such, dishes such as our Braised Oxtails and Caribbean Whelks (akin to l 'escargot) and our local fish are some of our standouts."

Strong show partnerships have translated into reduced room rates at some of St. Thomas' top hotels and resorts such as the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman's Reef; The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas; Margaritaville Vacation Club St. Thomas; and Bluebeards. This creates an opportunity for a luxurious vacation and boat show combined.

Perched on a peninsula overlooking the Charlotte Amalie harbor and the Caribbean Sea, the 2023-re-opened and fully re-imagined Westin Beach Resort & Spa is less than two miles by land or sea from VIBE's venue at the Yacht Haven Grande St. Thomas marina. This freshly refurbished hotel features the brand's iconic Heavenly Bed, five diverse restaurants from American to Mediterranean and Asian Fusion, three ocean-view pools where you can cast a glance over to VIBE, and an adventure beach featuring a fleet of Hobie Cats, kayaks, standup paddleboards, beach toys, and snorkel gear to explore the surrounding sparkling Caribbean waters.

"Guests will also have access to the HeavenlySpa by Westin, a sanctuary of self-care offering the ultimate relaxation and pampering. The spa will feature 13 treatment rooms and a menu of signature health and wellness treatments. It's a wonderful place for guests to enjoy a little rest and relaxation during the show," says Jennifer Stromberg, marketing manager.

Room rates at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman's Reef are discounted by nearly 30% to US $445/night single or double, with a water shuttle servicing the five-minute distance to VIBE.

The right time and place

It's the right time and place for a next-level shake-up to standard boat sales shows. First, the growth in post-pandemic travel is fueling growth in global recreational boating to more than $44 billion by 2027, according to the January 2023-released report, Recreational Boating Global Market Report, by UK-headquartered The Business Research Company. Secondly, the Caribbean was one of the global regions with the fastest post-pandemic tourism recovery, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is at the forefront with a 44% increase in arrivals compared to 2019, according to statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Add to this that St. Thomas was named the Hottest Yachting Destination in the Caribbean in 2021 by Caribbean Journal.

That's not all. The U.S. Virgin Islands offers a business-friendly environment for buying and selling yachts, thanks to its use of the U.S. dollar, U.S. banking institutions, and exclusive tax incentives. With no sales tax and duty-free allowances for vendors, the territory provides favorable conditions for conducting yacht transactions. Additionally, the well-established and highly successful charter industry in the USVI presents opportunities to speak directly with local company representatives about purchasing a vessel for income-producing crewed charters.

Sponsors of VIBE include the Government of the USVI and the USVI Department of Tourism.

To register for the Virgin Islands Boating Exposition (VIBE) visit vibe.vi.

For information about the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) visit www.vipca.org

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