CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas -- Big boats represent a source of potentially big revenue for agents.

The Virgin Islands Charteryacht League hopes to lure that audience aboard at its semiannual charter shows on St. Thomas, scheduled from May 14 to 16 and again from Nov. 11 to 13.

The shows are not open to the public but are designed specifically to acquaint charter-yacht brokers with U.S.V.I.-based yachts and their crews. Agents qualify as recognized yacht brokers by attending one of the League's yearly events and participating in the New Broker Seminars held the day before the official opening of each show. The May seminar is priced at $150; the November seminar is $250.

According to Judy Knape, League director, "a travel agent has two ways of booking a charter yacht. "An agent can work through a broker and split the commission or become a broker himself and collect the full commission."

If an agent is not a broker, he collects information on a prospect's nautical vacation needs and interests and turns that over to an established yacht broker. The broker then contacts charter clearinghouses, which hold the calendar availability dates on specific boats.

When a yacht booking is handled by a combination of agent and broker, the 20% commission is evenly split between the two, with each party getting 10%. The agent separately collects the standard commission on the other travel components of the vacation package, such as air and hotel, according to Knape.

To qualify for the 20% split, the charter inquiry has to originate with the agent and be passed onto an unrelated charter broker. The second option is for the travel agent to become a recognized broker, in which case the retailer receives a 15% commission for each charter booking.

"The seminars explain the structure of the charter industry and the contracting process," Knape said. "We include collateral materials on setting up a brokerage business and information on questions to ask prospects."

Selling a charter yacht vacation is "very different from selling a hotel room or a cruise," according to Knape. "Each boat is different, and the personality and interests of the crew are an important factor in matching the right boat with the prospective guest."

During the shows, agents personally inspect charter yachts, moored at Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas, talk with the crews and dine aboard the vessels. The May show is expected to host 50 yachts, and the November event 60 vessels.

Events at each gathering include get-acquainted parties plus culinary competitions and cook-offs hosted by the yacht crews.

Virgin Islands Charteryacht League
Phone: (800) 524-2061
U.S. Virgin Islands
Phone: (800) 372-USVI

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