Brighter times ahead for charter and brokerage

As we head into a new year Yachting Pages has seen an increase in enquiries and bookings. Encouraged by this interest, it spoke to some of the top superyacht charter and brokerage firms about their predictions for the year ahead.

Superyacht charter

Julia Simpson from Superyachts Monaco is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.

“We have some great new additions to our fleets for sales and charter, which is a sign that yacht owners see some light at the end of the tunnel and see value in marketing their yachts now. 2020 was seen by many owners as a time to take care of maintenance projects as well as enjoy their own yachts when it was possible, ensuring their yachts were in great condition coming into 2021. 2021 is still an unknown quantity, but no one expects a return to a pre-COVID normal in the blink of an eye, and we all adjust our expectations almost daily as to how the year will play out. The new normal is maybe more of a flexible, hopeful and caring mindset than a hard and fast playbook, as LP Hartley put it so well “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there,” and we are all proactively seeking new ways to do business that keep our clients safely enjoying yachting.”

Weathering the 2020 storm

“Superyachts Monaco weathered 2020 well, our team is stable, our fleets grew, our sales record was strong and our charter fleet was not completely hampered by the ever-changing landscape of safe destinations and acceptable places of origin of clients. We learned how to navigate the sea of communications and relay up-to-the-minute information to clients and yacht owners. Yacht brokers are in essence advisors, researchers and negotiators for their clients, all skills that were required in abundance through 2020,” Simpson continued.

Superyacht charter

Fraser Yachts CEO, Raphael Sauleau, is looking forward to a strong 2021.

“Despite the still-uncertain environment we find ourselves in, and the recent curfews and lockdowns imposed, we saw a positive year for sales in 2020. Fraser sold 43 yachts over 24 metres (79 feet), the best-performing year of the last three, and up on the 11-year average. Following this, I feel that 2021 will bring more positivity, buoyed by the optimism created by the launch of worldwide vaccination campaigns. Furthermore, whilst some may still feel uncertain about travelling, even more people will start to see yachting as a way to travel in a safe manner, in a well-managed environment.”

2021 is starting strongly

For Superyachts Monaco the year has started well.

“2021 has started well, and we see sales continuing at pace, as per the end of 2020, across the industry. We have 2 additions to our sales fleet in the past month, a 50-metre (164 feet) and a 40-metre (131-foot) and also an 88-metre (288-foot) in our charter fleet, so we are seeing positive energy and plenty of enquiries daily. We also launched a new website in December, which caused a stir in the market and keeps our enquiry levels buoyant. In terms of charter requests, it is always quiet in January, and we will only be able to tell how the rolling out of vaccinations, the new US president, Brexit and other factors will affect bookings in a few months’ time. If the trend towards private vacations continues, then yacht charter should see a rebound faster than other areas of tourism.”

Cromwell Littlejohn, CCO at Northrop & Johnson, feels positive about Q1 of 2021.

"2020 was, to say the least, a challenging year, however, N&J and many other firms found a silver lining. People love to be on the water and in the times of COVID-19, being on the water with close friends and family seemed to be the most enjoyable way to social distance while remaining outdoors and in their own "bubble" away from crowds and super-spreader events. While the industry was greatly concerned as to the future at the end of Q1 2020, by the end of Q2, the industry was in a major rebound and the biggest issue was inventory and how quickly sales could be completed so boaters could get back to enjoying life on the water.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, the inability to travel freely internationally resulted in many charters being postponed and rescheduled. However, quite a few charters did in fact occur as favoured cruising areas later in the year, and many charterers took advantage of the ability to enjoy travel again in the safety of a yacht’s controlled environment, which was further adapted with new protocols to reduce the chances of infection.”

Superyacht charter

Charter activity will be at an all-time high

“In many instances, the rescheduled charters allowed yachts more time between charters to cleanse and additional precautions were put in place to minimize contact and maintain the "bubble" environment surrounding a yacht. Having successfully rescheduled many charters to 2021, we're expecting 2021 charter activity to be at an all-time high with availability being the biggest concern at the moment.

As boaters’ desires to be on the water continue, Q1 2021 is looking strong. Inquiries remain active and many of the late 2020 deals are closing in January and February, indicating the industry will remain robust for the foreseeable future. Non-owners, being tired of lockdowns and limited travel, are jumping at the opportunity to charter again, or for the first time. Inquiries are quickly being converted to bookings.

Our best advice to those considering chartering is to not sit idle as with the reschedulings from 2020 and the increased use by owners, availability will become the greatest limiting factor as we roll into the summer season.”

Fraser is also observing a buoyant charter market.

"We are seeing an encouraging demand for charter and plenty of enquiries. We of course hope that the pandemic will slow down and optimism will be in force by the spring. However, regardless of what happens with that situation, we foresee a significant influx in demand to charter, among both experienced yachting clients and first-timers. People will see the unique benefits of a yacht as a destination in itself, and of enjoying an incomparable experience at sea while seeing many places in a day – something that a resort or villa holiday simply does not allow. We are therefore extremely optimistic on observing charter being a highly in demand way of vacationing going forward, for existing but also new individuals to yachting.”

A safe vacation

Cromwell Littlejohn also predicts an increase in demand.

“We are extremely optimistic heading into 2021. Having seen boat and yacht sales remain strong throughout 2020, we feel that the roll out of vaccines and other protective measures will only increase demand for both ownership and charter. Boating remains one of the most enjoyable and safe recreational pursuits for many, and we're glad to be able to help get people on the water easily and safely.“

Germán Liubitch of Ritzy Charters agrees that the relative safety of yachting is positive for the industry.

"Chartering a private yacht is one of the safest vacations one can enjoy during these times. The experience on board can be very similar to what this type of trip was before the pandemic, and if done correctly, the exposure to COVID can be minimized substantially. It is key to plan accordingly and understand the protocols in the place you will be visiting. Demand for travel has been weak for obvious reasons, but with the vaccination started we are slowly starting to see a recovery in the inquiries for crewed yacht charters."

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