Landing fees are to be waived for crews of yachts spending less than three days at St Helena.
The move follows a determined push to encourage more visits to the island under sail. In December 2010, the tourism department reported that it had put in new facilities at the landing steps, including a solar-powered shower, and laid new moorings.
It suffered a setback last summer when a mooring severed and the yacht Queequeg was washed onto rocks and broke up – landing St Helena Government with a bill approaching a quarter of a million pounds. New moorings are due to be laid.
The fee waiver is aimed especially at professional crews transporting yachts across the Atlantic on behalf of their owners, who have often passed the island without stopping up to now.
“With only anchorage to pay,” says a statement from St Helena Government, “it means crews of yachts that are passing through will be able to take advantage of the island to re-stock with supplies, fuel and water before sailing onwards.”
The number of visitors arriving by yacht rose by 11% last year, and 15% the year before. In 2010, yachtsmen accounted for more than a tenth of all visits to the island.
The tourism department is evidently making an effort to improve its offering to yacht crews, following criticism in the past about what they receive in return for the fees they pay.
“Facilities are continuing to improve on the island,” says the SHG statement, “and many yacht visitors end up staying for longer periods before tackling the route north or across the Atlantic.”
The initiative launched in 2010 included publication of a yachting guide that was promoted through clubs in South Africa and on specialist websites.
Director of Tourism Pamela Young was quoted in 2010 saying word-of-mouth was also important. “We will continue to work hard to improve our yachting product so that visitor numbers will increase,” she said. “It is therefore very important that all our visitors enjoy the St Helena experience, as ultimately it is their voice that will promote the island.”
As a director of Moonbeams, a shop which provides services to yachties and other tourists, I naturally welcome this news. And as a resident I would also be delighted to meet more of the yachting community, who like all visitors bring additional colour and variety to life here. St Helena is an ideal stopover for an Atlantic crossing and I hope more will take advantage of what we have to offer.
John Turner, St Helena