Demand for superyacht charters has never been higher – Robb Report
The yacht charter market is much less confused than last year, but some of the most popular destinations are still bogged down by Covid uncertainty. About half of the yachts that typically cross the Atlantic stay in the United States or the Bahamas, unsure of when France and Italy will open up to chartered vessels, or if there will be another Covid wave, s’ they will remain open.
Despite the uncertainty, many brokers expect record charters, due to pent-up demand and alternate locations. “It will be a summer unlike any we have seen since the early 2000s,” said Robert Shepherd, partner at Edmiston. Robb Report, indicating an increase in the personal wealth of wealthy people. “We have also seen an unprecedented volume of yacht sales, which has brought a new selection of yachts to the rental market.”
The boom is well received by clients and brokers. “The past year has been chaos,” said Gina Robertson, a charter broker at Fraser Yachts. Robb Report. “Many owners have refused to reimburse or authorize future changes, but now Covid riders on contracts allow for usual variations. Things are still a bit off, but nothing like last summer.
Greece, Croatia and Turkey recently announced that they will allow charters. Brokers are waiting for France, Italy and Spain to reopen before directing Americans to these countries. “A number of yachts are planning to move their cruise areas from the west to the east of the Mediterranean for the season,” one broker emailed, asking not to be named. “I tell clients if they have ever wanted to visit Greece or Croatia, now is the time.”
The demand is there, says Robertson. American customers “snore” to navigate the western Mediterranean. “We just don’t promote new business in the Western Mediterranean until we hear more from it,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron told local media he expected his country to reopen to vaccinated Americans on June 9, while Spain also said it would open to non-European travelers in June. Italy has said it will allow European tourists to enter the country by mid-May, although it is not known when vaccinated Americans will be welcome. “There is also a difference between the right to visit tourists and the opening of ports to rental yachts,” adds Robertson. “It could be different dates.”
In the face of uncertainty, rental yachts that typically cross the Atlantic remain on the American side. “About half of our fleet in the Caribbean makes the trip this summer, while some are staying put to welcome Americans seeking an escape closer to home,” said Ben Harwood, partner and head of the charter management in Burgess Robb Report.
Instead, many yachts are moving to the Bahamas or heading to New England. “The Bahamas are crowded,” says Robertson. “Their number of Covid cases has been so low that they have opened without quarantine and allow travelers to have proof of the vaccine.”
The British Virgin Islands, which dropped their quarantine requirements on May 15, remain a popular charter destination year round. “We expect heavy traffic for the rest of this month and into June and July,” said Raul Bermudez, vice president of MarineMax Vacations. Robb Report. “This will continue into September and the rest of the winter. It should be a very busy year.
Costa Rica will also become a trendy destination, according to Mike Busacca, COO of Fraser, thanks to a recently passed law that allows charter vessels flying foreign flags to enter its waters. Fraser was part of a group that included the Costa Rica Marina Association, Marina Vez Pela and Marina Papagayo, who lobbied the government for change.
The agreement, signed on April 5, is in the final phase of implementation. “It will be great for marinas and rental yachts,” said Busacca, who witnessed the signing of the law by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvareda Quesada. “The waters and the beaches are beautiful and the fishing is amazing. It should be very popular with customers looking for something new. “
The demand for a charter is higher than ever. “We will be selling this year,” said Daniel Ziriakus, President and COO of Northrop & Johnson. “We have signed a series of seven figure charters and what we are seeing now is limited inventory to some extent. The charter market has become a problem on the supply side. “
The reasons: Many of last year’s canceled charters have moved to this year, as increased demand this year includes an influx of new charterers. There are “good boats” available, Ziriakus notes, but you have to start booking now. “If you wait until everything is 100% open, it might be too late,” he says.
Fraser reports that many people now take their charters within seven to ten days of booking, rather than booking three to six months as was normal during the pre-Covid period. Robertson has also seen changes in long-term customer behavior due to the shortage of charter vessels. “One of my oldest clients usually lets go until a few days before charter,” she says. “He booked last month for a charter at the end of July. That’s how tight it is.