From introducing future owners to the wonderful world of yachting, to improving and progressing tourism and maritime infrastructures around the globe, to simply easing the financial burden of owning a significant vessel, the charter industry is an essential element of the superyacht industry. Like many elements of the industry, however, essentiality and competence are not always correlative.
This is not to say that the charter industry is incompetent. In fact, it is safe to say that with increasingly sophisticated - and considerably larger - superyachts hitting the water every year, hard to reach destinations becoming distinctly less hard to reach and a growing number of UHNWI able to embark on superyacht charters, the charter market has never been better. To really elevate the industry to the heights it is capable of, however, no one can deny that several areas could certainly benefit from progression.
The internet is a prime example. An intrinsic part of modern day life, why is the internet, arguably, underutilised in the charter industry? Is it because the clients of big charter companies demand a personal touch or is it a question of just not being able to keep up with the advances of modern technology and a younger generation?
We posed the following questions on the current state and potential future growth of the charter industry to charter specialists around the world:
1) How can the charter industry grow and become better?
2) Many would argue that the internet is not utilised enough as a proper tool in the charter industry. Why do you think that is?
3) Would an Airbnb-type model work well for the industry?
Rupert Connor - Luxury Yacht Group
1) Investment in training people and improving technology to support the whole team associated with the charter. There are things that we are doing that are not yet complete, although it's an ever moving target.
3) I think that this is long shot. A great deal of the Airbnb business model, like TripAdvisor, relies upon the feedback from the client reviewing their visit. Our yacht charter clients rarely wish to leave public feedback. Confidentiality is too highly valued. As a result the ratings will be subject to abuse and in very low numbers. From the owner's perspective I believe that they need more validation on the client before they are willing to give them access to their yacht. Will there be an improved system for someone to book a yacht? Yes, certainly. However, I don't believe that the Airbnb model works for yachting.
Laurie Foulon - Ocean Alliance
2) Until a few years ago the industry wanted to believe that hard-copy brochures were still useful. A lot more yacht crew nowadays are widely spreading photos on social media, promoting their own yacht’s brand across several channels like Instagram and Facebook. To me, the charter industry is lacking youth and fresh views about new marketing strategies. It is still confined in old habits and needs to be woken up! The internet is being underused because it is not mastered by Generation X, which currently dominates the charter industry.
3) I think an Airbnb-type model could do two things: either loosen the feeling of exclusivity that a superyacht offers by making it accessible to a wider audience, or allow to reach out to a brand new audience, introducing new and potential clients via new, modernised and innovative channels. Just like charter clients potentially lead to sales conversions, to me short-term charters are the future of the industry. Generation Y have less time in their hands and things move faster around them.
Molly Browne - Camper & Nicholsons
1) The industry is better than ever, driven in part by huge increases in technology. Everything is becoming even more customised - from the initial charter booking to the itineraries - people are travelling further than ever to places they would never have considered before. The internet allows them to explore the world and they want to see it first-hand. The demand means that owners are now taking their yachts further afield to discover new areas and to fulfil the demand from charter clients.
2) The entire industry is about bespoke services, from the first customised selection of superyachts to the itinerary, every charter is unique and so the service needs to be personal. The internet is a great way of finding out the basics and deciding perhaps on the type of yacht you would like to charter, how it all works, and where to go but when it comes to actually creating a charter, it is the personal service that makes it complete.
Anastasia Legrand - Fraser Yachts
2) I cannot totally agree with that. Of course, there is always room for improvement but I can see a lot of yachting related businesses moving from the paper to the screen and prioritising these sources of information. All of the big companies on the market are widely present on the web: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat. The yachts have their own websites and the client can literally take a 3D walk through the yacht and watch the video interview with the crew.
3) Some companies have already implemented the Airbnb-type model and apparently it is working. However, I think it can only work successfully for the smaller yachts, let’s say, below 25 metres. Speaking about the bigger yachts, I don’t think this will ever become the case. Yacht charter is a very exclusive and intimate process. I’ve spent four hours on the plane going to a one hour meeting and then flying back for four hours because a client wants to discuss a sample menu and the itinerary in person. I believe it is a fair request from someone who pays €500,000 a week for the charter, and that week can easily be the only week off that the client gets in the whole year. Everything must be perfect and there is no room for mistakes.
The full article is featured in the ninth edition of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now and never miss another issue!