Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   May 2007




Readers' Survey 2007 Results

The results of the fourth Caribbean Compass Readers' Survey are in.

We're always curious to learn whether our compass needs adjusting to stay on the course readers want, so thanks to all who took the time to share your opinions, concerns and suggestions. We'll be sharing pertinent information with the appropriate government agencies and other groups, and using the rest to bring you an ever-improving Compass.

Although this is not a scientific survey, the information it reveals gives a good indication of who Compass readers are and what you're thinking. In general, responses show that you are aware, thoughtful and eager for information relevant to your lifestyle. We've learned what Compass content you like best (your own Readers' Forum tops the list for the fourth time running!), and we've taken notes on what you'd like to see more (or less) of in future issues of Compass, so stay tuned!

The majority of respondents report that they read the Compass every month and usually read most articles, rating them good to excellent. Some readers note that although they don't read certain columns, they realize that they are important to others. Even departments that do not have universal appeal have their handful of passionate fans. Copies of the Compass are reportedly easy to find, and two or more people read every copy. As in previous surveys, the typical Compass respondent is 45 years old or over, is cruising the islands aboard his or her own yacht and is usually on the move.

Two-thirds said that they came to the Caribbean with the intention of staying for more than one year, with the average having cruised for seven years in the Caribbean - talk about long-term visitors! A number of those who say they do not intend to stay for more than a year note that they regularly come to the Caribbean to cruise, often for four to six months each winter. The majority of respondents came from North America, and the rest from Europe. Advertisers please note: Ninety-six percent of respondents said they consider the advertisements in Compass "useful" or "very useful"!


Although more than half our respondents still say that they feel that security is getting to be more of a problem, there was a slight decrease from previous surveys. As in our last two surveys, the majority of respondents feel that local authorities are not taking adequate action to ensure visitors' security. Nevertheless, nearly three-quarters of the respondents agree that the Caribbean is relatively safe compared to most other tourist destinations.

Readers have obviously drawn a distinction between "security" and "safety" - that is, theft is an important concern, but readers don't feel that they are in personal danger. To improve the security situation, readers see a need for prompt police response to yacht-related crimes (perhaps facilitated by VHF radios and quick-response boats), official follow-up after crimes and speedy justice in the case of any crime against a visitor.

As in previous surveys, most people are in favor of the introduction of marine parks and are willing to pay park entry fees, "as long the fees go directly to protection of the environment, not to private enterprise or the government". Over two-thirds do not believe that yachts contribute significantly to marine pollution. Eighty-eight percent agreed that disposal of yacht garbage should be banned on small islands without adequate facilities.

Nearly the same percentage felt strongly that yachting destinations, especially marinas and boatyards, should provide facilities for environmentally safe disposal of used oil, batteries and other toxic waste. Although 95 percent said in the last survey that yachts should pay a fee to help pay for collection and disposal of yacht garbage when clearing into a country, slightly less than 90 percent feel that way now. One respondent commented, "Why should yachts pay for proper disposal? Local citizens throw their garbage and litter everywhere and when it ends up in the sea the yachts get blamed for it." Another noted, "Sailors need to address their own garbage issues; we can't expect others to."

The Perfect Anchorage
According to this year's survey respondents, as in the past, the perfect anchorage has, far above all else, a clean environment and friendly people. Other desirable features include a dinghy dock, security patrols and the availability of fuel and water. Shops, moorings and marina facilities were considered somewhat less important. Write-in comments indicate that the ideal anchorage is also scenic, quiet and uncrowded and has helpful, non-aggressive boatboys.

The anchorage where virtually nobody wants to be suffers from security problems, harassment, noise, an unclean environment and overcrowding. Lack of facilities was not of much concern. Other undesirable factors written in include nuisance boatboys, too many moorings in the good anchoring spots, and lack of respect from other watercraft operators including jet-ski users, speedboat drivers and anchoring-challenged bareboaters.

Fully 100 percent of this survey's respondents say they prefer to be in areas without jet-skis.

Customs & Immigration
More than eighty percent of readers agree that most Customs and Immigration officers in the Caribbean are efficient and courteous. As in our last two surveys, respondents said that they found the "most efficient and courteous" Customs and Immigration officials on the islands of Bequia and Martinique. In national groupings, the French Antilles as a whole came out ahead, with St. Vincent & the Grenadines a close second. Although one reader felt that "most are improving", two countries that showed marked improved in our 2004 survey compared to 2001 did some backsliding this time. We'll be having a private word with those who were voted "least efficient and courteous"!

Grenada (including Carriacou) received the same number of "most" and "least" votes again, as they did in the last survey. As in previous surveys, it is strongly suggested that tourism departments work closely with Customs and Immigration to build good customer-service skills. Survey respondents would also like to see Customs and Immigration hours, rules and fees clearly posted at each port of entry. There is a loud and clear call in this fourth survey for sub-regional unity regarding yacht clearance. Readers suggest that Customs and Immigration procedures be standardized (and even computerized) for the entire Eastern Caribbean. In fact, many survey respondents see a need for more collaboration among all the Eastern Caribbean governments and boating stakeholders to safeguard and improve yacht tourism.

The Future?
We introduced a new topic to our Readers' Survey this year, "What is your vision of the Caribbean in the next 5 years?" Interestingly, about half our respondents see a sweet dream while the other half see a nightmare. But the issues are the same. Environmental concerns (e.g. pollution, environmental degradation, habitat destruction) are paramount.

Overcrowding, overdevelopment, alienation of once-public land into private (or corporate) hands, mass tourism, increasing prices, more bureaucracy and the rampant proliferation of moorings in good anchorages are visions of an undesirable future. "I hope the beautiful coasts will not become spoiled by mega-projects, huge buildings and marinas," says one correspondent. "Otherwise the uniqueness of the islands will be lost."

A new specter has arisen in many respondent's minds: the fear of boating becoming increasingly expensive across the board due to a mega-yacht boom. A reader asks, "Do all the islands need to jump on the mega-yacht bandwagon? It would be interesting to know what they bring to the average citizen." Some, however, see the other side of the coin: a Caribbean where the focus is on the environment, crime has been brought under control, governments appreciate and nurture the contribution to the local economy of all types of yachting, there is less bureaucracy, prices are still reasonable, and the standard of living for local people has been much improved.

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