We referred to the refreshed unity among Antiguans and Barbudans as one of the silver linings to the cloud that was Hurricane Irma. Obviously there are others but that seems to be the key one, and, hopefully, longest lasting. Now we have learnt that Antigua will benefit from cruise ship diversions due to the damage to port facilities in other neighbouring islands. This is good news for us as it may offset some of the economic doldrums that affect our bit of paradise at this time.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, has been quoted as saying, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” We reference those words, whether they are Franklin’s or not, because they have great relevance to our nation as we, and our Caribbean neighbours, recover from Irma.
We have already witnessed at least one opportunity that has fallen into our laps with the redirection of cruise ships to our port, so the truism of those words are not in doubt. The reminder of the opportunities, however, may not be so easy to come by, but that simply means that we have to think more and work harder to pursue them for our collective benefit.
For example, in the area of cruise tourism, Sint Maarten, one of the Caribbean’s favourite cruise destinations, was devastated by Hurricane Irma. We will, hopefully, and for the foreseeable future, benefit from diversions from that duty-free port, and that got us thinking. Shouldn’t we investigate whether we could become the premier duty-free port in the Caribbean? With a void there, is there an economic case to fill it and transform our island into a duty-free port?
There has been a lot of talk about this prior to this possible opportunity, but we presume that there was not a compelling case to compete with Sint Maarten. And we can understand that. The question that now raises its head is: is there, now, an opportunity that we can exploit?
We know some may say that even the thought of this is in poor taste; akin to kicking Sint Maarten while they are down, but we beg to differ. Tourism is a competitive industry, and we all try to get a leg up on the competition in any way that we can. Sint Maarten, itself, saw the success of our Sailing Week and began competing with us back in 1980. Many have pointed to their entry into the Caribbean regatta market and their success as one of the things
that has negatively impacted our 50-year-old Sailing
Think of it. If you are a yacht owner and you are only going to make one appearance in the Caribbean, you have to choose between the late April Antigua Sailing Week and the early March Sint Maarten regatta-and they have a duty free port! Sint Maarten also got into competition with us on the charter yacht end of the industry, establishing a competing show to our Antigua Charter Yacht Show that has been going on for basically as long as Sailing Week. Due to what appears to be a preference for our show, the Sint Maarten show lost the support of the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association, and it eventually fizzled.
We are not bemoaning the fact that Sint Maarten or any other Caribbean island competes with us, and we not looking to knock anyone out of the market because we love competition. We support the concepts of free choice and free markets and believe that almost all industries are better if competition reigns.
Our point is that there is opportunity that we should not ignore. Whether we can capitalize on the opportunities is another story, but we should not shy away from seizing the day and, at least, investigate.
That brings us to another quote: “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” This is also attributed to Benjamin Franklin and, although he may have said those words, the concept is much older than Franklin. There is a 16th century idiom that says “success results more from application and practice than from good fortune.” Or put another way, “If you work carefully and constantly, you will be far more likely to be successful, as if luck had come your way.”
Right now, luck has shined upon our bit of paradise. Now we need to work carefully and constantly to ensure that the initial luck translates into success.