Earlier this month, SuperYacht Times met up with Belgian company EXMAR Yachting at the Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS). EXMAR is a large Belgian corporation, and one of the biggest companies in terms of gas shipping and marine infrastructure. The Group itself is comprised of several different divisions such as LNG, LPG, Offshore and Services which include EXMAR Ship Management (who manage all kinds of floating assets); Belgibo (Insurance Brokers); Travel PLUS (the travel agency); and EXMAR Yachting (Yacht chartering, management and brokerage). SuperYacht Times had the opportunity to talk with EXMAR Yachting Charter Manager Jill Zwaans, who introduced the company to us.
Jill Zwaans joined EXMAR in 2011 specifically to develop the luxury vessel charter department within the EXMAR Ship Management division. Charter successes quickly followed, something which Zwaans attributes to a combination of the existing portfolio of luxury vessels under management and her own extensive network in the industry.
Jill comments, “I started promoting the vessels that we had under management as well as other yachts for charter anywhere in the world, as a retail broker. It all started very small with a few luxury vessels, and we saw the numbers grow every year. With my own existing and new connections especially in the Belgian market, I had already a lot of potential clients who were unfamiliar with the concept of ‘chartering a yacht’, although very interested in booking this charter holiday with us for smaller yachts without crew or a more luxurious yacht with crew. By introducing this luxurious way of travelling to our clients and creating a nice relaxing holiday for them with a personal approach, we now have a very good network.”
In the yachting industry, good connections and understanding the client’s needs, are a guarantee of a memorable experience at the right price. “I know quite a few yachts, their crews, their specialities and their owners. I know which yachts have a good charter reputation and special locations where I can find unforgettable gems for my clients. Our clients come back because they like that level of service.
“I mainly focus on retail chartering and travel assistance for any size of yacht, so I select the vessels which are best suited for my clients' specific needs and package an entire experience around the charter itself. I never just look for a luxury vessel for the sake of it. I get really personal with my clients and want to know exactly what they want. We help them with their itinerary too which features as part of our destinations brochure which we created recently. Helping them with the best flight combinations, or private jet itineraries, and assisting them in finding the right luxury hotel accommodation at the destination, as well as VIP ground transportation, is all a part of our service package. I really do make sure that from the beginning to the end they are taken care of exceptionally well. Most importantly, the client only has one contact person for their entire trip and they know that they can contact me at any time. Also their feedback is highly important to me, just to make sure that we can only improve our services towards them.”
This dedication and passion for perfecting the dream package for her clients has clearly been beneficial to the reputation of the growing division, with the success reflected in the amount of repeat clients returning to EXMAR Yachting again and again for their charter needs. Zwaans is exploring further options, having seeing an increase international clients outside Belgium.
This successful formula experienced in the first preliminary years reached a whole new level in 2013, when the charter side of the business stepped out of EXMAR Ship Management, and became a whole new company in itself under the direction of Jill Zwaans, EXMAR Yachting. “We created an entirely new business unit based on brokerage, chartering and management. But we still take advantage of the synergy with the EXMAR Group for crewing services, safety instructions, ISM & ISPS implementation, technical assistance, accountancy, budget reporting, etc.”
The presence of EXMAR Yachting at the Dubai International Boat show and its promotion of a unique new build 60 metre yacht designed for the Middle East market, Katina, is a clear mark of confidence to expand further, to explore different new markets and to increase the number and type of luxury yachting experiences on offer to their loyal customer base.
“With boat shows like these I have the opportunity to visit more yachts and crew in this part of the world and I like to go further and discover which niche destinations are yet to be discovered by the yachting industry. Not everyone would like to just charter a yacht to explore the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, they want to go farther afield. Business is good, and we’re just trying to see how far we take our personal approach in a very ambitious and adventurous way.”