St. Kitts has been experiencing an increase in yacht and private/corporate jet arrivals in accordance with the government’s strategic decision to target a more discerning destination traveler.
In 2006, the St. Kitts and Nevis government borrowed over $15 million in order to quadruple the size of the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport parking apron and construct a new taxi-way to facilitate the growing demand at that time from scheduled airlines as well as private/corporate jets.
In 2010, the yachting and tendering facilities at the government-owned Port Zante Marina were also upgraded to meet the demands of more affluent visitors, including hotel guests traveling between the sister island of Nevis and the RLB Airport in St. Kitts.
“We are still struggling to recover from the global economic crisis which was a real shock to our tourism industry, but it is clear that St.Kitts has been reaping dividends from our government’s decision to invest so heavily in air and sea port facilities," said Senator Ricky Skerritt, minister of tourism and international transport, in a written release. "The recent accelerated growth in business from these two particular niche markets is clear evidence that we made the right decisions at the right time.”
According to the St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA), yacht arrivals rose from a total of 285 calls in 2011 to a total of 485 calls in 2012, an increase of 70-percent over the one year period. The average tonnage size of visiting yachts has also increased. As demonstrated over this past Christmas and New Year’s period, corporate jet arrivals to St. Kitts have also been on the rise – from a low of 186 arrivals in 2009, the year following the US financial crisis, to an average of 393 corporate jet arrivals per year for the three year period 2010 to 2012.
A total of 1,336 private planes, including corporate jets, landed at RLB Airport in 2012 - up from a 1,188 in 2009. According to the most recent 2012 St. Kitts Tourism Authority RLB airport exit survey of passengers on scheduled airlines only, more than half of St. Kitts’ stop-over visitors (53 percent) earn above $100,000 per year. The average daily per person spend among this more affluent segment is $275 per day as compared to $165 per day for those making less than $100,000.
The growth in arrivals at St. Kitts of private jets and yachts are concurrent with the construction progress being made on the multi-million dollar Christophe Harbour Marina and the new private jet terminal at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport. The latter is in the final stages of building out with a projected opening for May, 2013. In addition, plans are being developed for further development of the Port Zante marina, as well as for the modernization of yacht entry and clearance administration.