Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Members of the media and honorable hosts of the Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting.  Good evening. I would like to welcome you to Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Government and her people. As this is the Welcome Cocktail party this evening, I am confident you’ll be hearing many ‘welcomes’ while here and not just only from us, but from the many vendors, partners and people of Antigua and Barbuda. Our enthusiasm is for good reason: we have the distinct pleasure of welcoming you to mark a significant milestone: the 54th Anniversary of the Antigua Charter Yacht Show.

Taken into context of the history of our islands, the first Charter Yacht Show took place before Antigua and Barbuda’s even became an associated state in 1967 and of course before our independence in 1981 – so it has not only survived but thrived through the many changes and growth of Antigua and Barbuda, becoming an integral event in our famous yachting calendar year.

Founded some 54 years ago by Commander V.E.B Nicholson and his sons, the original objective was to give patrons the opportunity to inspect the yachts before chartering them. Since then, much like Antigua and Barbuda, the show had gone through many changes and transformations to adapt to the changing needs of the day.

While the show has evolved, the core purpose has not only remained but is now seen as the official launch of our yachting season.

This year we are lucky enough to welcome 92 different yachts and 300 different broker companies not to mention the various clients and yachting enthusiasts that include prominent panelists and of course the competitors in the chef and stewardesses competition.

The success and longevity of this wonderful show is no surprise to me. Yachting and sailing are intrinsic to our nation’s culture and history.

Yachting has become an incredibly important, not just to our culture, but to our economy as well, both in creating opportunities in employment as well as direct contributions in spending.

In regards to yachting being integral to our culture, I can start with where we have gathered for this evening. The famous Copper and Lumber Store Hotel is an 18th Century former storehouse for shipbuilding material in the equally famous Nelson’s Dockyard the mecca of Caribbean sailing

As many of you are aware our pedigree for the provision of yachting services and craftsmen is known around the world and as an added bonus for us, this event is a unique opportunity for many small businesses to provide goods and services to these yachts.

I truly believe that between our historical ambiance, renowned services, and just as importantly the warmth of our people is what attracts the discerning yachties over and over again – to our beautiful islands.

While not being an expert in yachting – other than knowing I truly enjoy their beauty and being on one – I feel safe in saying that I am sure the thing that has changed the most is how vessels have markedly changed in design and amenities over the last 54 years!

Thankfully, we have recently changed as well to better serve you. We have renovated and improved our amenities and services on-island so that they can not only meet but also exceed your expectations.

We have introduced updated customs and immigration procedures to expedite processes, Nelson’s Dockyard has been recently rehabilitated and equipped so it can provide enhanced security, the national parks authority continues to update and maintain the network of CCTV cameras in the area as everyone’s security is our top concern. The latest improvement being a reverse osmosis plant with 400,000 gallon daily capacity which is nearing completion and will solve the water problems that has periodically plagued us in the past.

So I feel confident in saying, we are growing and confident that we will remain the ‘mecca’ of Caribbean yachting.

 I would like to thank the principals of The Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting and other agencies such as The Antigua and Barbuda Marine Trade Association, National Parks authority for the excellent job they continue to do to develop this industry.

To you the agents, brokers, and owners we are eternally grateful for you continuing commitment and partnership in the development of our vital yachting industry.

And with that ladies and gentlemen, I now declare the 54th Antigua Yacht Charter Show officially open. Do have a lovely evening and enjoy you week with us!