An interview with Guadeloupe Yacht Concierge

Yachting Pages recently interviewed Ariane Graf of Guadeloupe Yacht Concierge to find out more about the company, the services available for yachts in Guadeloupe, as well as exploring Guadeloupe as a destination for captains and crew.

1) When was the business founded and how did it come about?

I just celebrated a five year anniversary actually. I started my company in 2009 as I was spending my summer in Newport, Rhode Island. I had been on-shore for three years working for the Marina Bas-du-Fort in Pointe a Pitre in Guadeloupe, in charge of marketing, events and welcoming the larger yachts.

I started to receive requests from yachts asking if I could clear them in Les Saintes, or greet a guest at the airport; however these jobs were not included in my daily tasks. After sailing at the Bucket in St. Barth, my first opportunity came with Mark, the owner of a Perini boat wanted to do a dive charter in Guadeloupe at the famous Cousteau Reserve and Les Saintes. I had a good feeling and liked it right away so I decided to widen services for the whole Island and the dependencies such as Les Saintes and Marie Galante.

I hesitated with the name of my company and ended up with “yacht concierge”, comparing it with the concierge services offered at luxurious five-star hotels. We wanted to portray ourselves as the one place capable of finding anything, anytime, 24/7. 

2) What makes you different from your competitors?

I did not want to call myself an “agent” as I found myself too much of a newbie in the business and thought “agents” were only for the bigger boats such as container ships or cruise ships. There are already many agents in Guadeloupe for this sector, but superyachts were still kind of a niche business then, so I was able to find a gap in the market to develop a business.

3) Is there anything new with your business?

Well yes, I have brought my partner, who is a race skipper, on-shore with me to become my business partner too. So together we are developing complementary services to assist sailing and racing yachts with logistics, for example the temporary importation of containers, rigging checks or emergency repairs after a Caribbean regatta, boat sitting or deliveries. 

We also specialise in shipping yachts back to Europe or the US after the regatta season or an offshore race such as the MiniTransat, the Route du Rhum or the Caribbean 600. We can also now provide race crew that are local to the Caribbean.

4) Who is your key target audience?

Any yachts and superyachts that cruise in the Caribbean. They are mainly private sail and motor yachts between the length of 25 and 85m. 

5) What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

Charter yachts are more difficult to target as of last season because of the new European charter VAT laws. They only stop for a day during their charter but don't hang around in Guadeloupe in between charters anymore. We lost about a third of visiting yachts. As the Caribbean island is French, brokers have to apply the European laws and therefore we can't compete with the other duty-free Caribbean islands the same way.

6) How is business?  Have you been effected by the recession?

Honestly it is good, being quite stable slightly growing each season. But I never know in advance how the season is going to be. Charter managers or captains rarely book in advance or when they do, plans often change. It’s good when there are offshore races such as Route du Rhum in November, as they make the season start earlier.

7) What are your top tips in your industry?

I would suggest that people need to know Guadeloupe is a “little France” in the Caribbean which can offer numerous advantages. You can find pretty much anything that is on mainland France, which astonishes most captains and crew as they usually have their provisioning companies ship fresh food from the US or UK... The hospital is also the same standard as the European hospitals, which is a great advantage.

8) What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?

The latest one was 100 white eggs for Easter on a Sunday afternoon when all markets were closed. But I wish I had more bizarre requests actually as it is more interesting; you would think people with money would make their dreams come true on holiday or have some real fun like kids, but they usually do regular Caribbean activities, which becomes boring for us!

9) What are the superyacht facilities like in Guadeloupe?

Good! There is a full service marina at Marina Bas du Fort for yachts under 70m and IMM, a shipyard with a 700ton floating dock and a dedicated mooring and dockage facility for transient yachts up to 130m, in the heart of Pointe a Pitre. It has a bar and restaurant for crew or guests right on the dock and the international airport and shops are only 10 minutes away.

10) How often do you receive fuel requests from yachts and superyachts?

Less and less, as fuel companies are going global and following their yacht clients to supply them everywhere they go; this mostly occurs at other islands as well. Captains are more than welcome to ask for quotes. Fuel is of high quality on the island and competitive duty-free can soon be delivered to all yachts, whether they are private or commercial. Bunkers are delivered easily by truck to the dock at IMM facilities and I supervise the process from A to Z, ensuring everything goes smoothly and on time.

11) What superyachts/big clients have you worked with that you can share?

With most of the big names who cruise in the Caribbean like (motor yacht) A, Alfa Nero, Al Mirqab, ChopiChopi, Eclipse, Ice, Maltese Falcon, Reborn, Solandge, Velsheda, but also smaller and friendly ones or repeaters such as Monte Carlo, CV-9, Blind Date, Oasis, Seawolf, Hush, Callisto, Stampede and Fountainhead.

12) Are you attending any upcoming boat shows?

Yes, I usually attend the Monaco Yacht Show, which is my favourite, but I will have to miss it this year due to my baby being still too young. I don't go to the Fort Lauderdale show anymore as I find it too impersonal. I will definitely attend the Antigua Charter Show of course as it signifies the start of the season here; this year we might attend it together with the French customs, as they want to promote themselves to the yachting community. I will also attend the Salon Nautic International show in Paris.

13) Who would be your dream client?

The client who asks for something unusual and fun, not the one who asks last minute, changes their mind three times, makes you run around a lot, only to finally cancel. The one who simply shows they are really happy to get more then what they had wished for.

For more information, visit Guadeloupe Yacht Concierge.

For more inforation on yacht fuel services, visit fuel companies.

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