With the charter season upon us, Monaco based company Aqvaluxe Yachts are gearing up for what looks to be one of their busiest seasons yet. Established by Alex Treleani and celebrating 15 years of business this year, here we talk to Treleani about his experience of being a small fish in the big pond of superyacht charter and brokerage.
What was your background in yachting before you established Aqvaluxe?
I initially got involved in yachting during the Miami Boat Show, in February 2000. I was there on vacation and after meeting several friends in the industry, I ended up returning home with a new job proposal. I’ve always had a passion for yachts and sailed around all the Mediterranean throughout my childhood on my family's sailboat. My grandfather was a naval architect himself and owned a small boatyard in the early 1900s in what is now Croatia. Nonetheless, prior to that particular vacation, I was working in the stock market room of a bank! Quite a radical change.
Before Aqvaluxe, you founded another company: SNO Yachts Monte Carlo. Can you tell us about that?
I founded SNO Yachts Monte-Carlo in early 2001 exclusively for selling new and pre-owned yachts and managing the US-built Hatteras Yachts dealership on behalf of our Italian sister-company. Shortly after, given the requests for yacht charters by our clients, I started looking for luxury yachts berthed in the South of France to bring to Sardinia. That was the beginning of my yacht charter career.
Since 2006, all the charter business of SNO has been managed exclusively from our Monaco office. In 2008 I joined MYBA, first as a MYBAnet subscriber and then in 2012 as a corporate member. My company has slowly become known as the Sardinia Charter Specialists mainly thanks to our locally based charter fleet and extensive knowledge of the area. We like that…
In 2009, I created AqvaLuxe Yacht Charters to independently handle the charter division; while SNO Yachts Monte-Carlo was kept to manage only yacht sales. In mid-2012 SNO Yachts Monte-Carlo became Aqvaluxe Yachts and took on a new identity of its own.
The next year Hatteras Yachts was sold by the Brunswick Corporation to a private U.S. based investment group. During the reorganisation of the management team of the shipyard, I was offered the role of Director of International Sales for EMEA, Asia Pacific, and Australia. I therefore joined Hatteras Yachts in September 2013 and was still able to keep my position of Managing Director for Aqvaluxe Yachts to oversee its charter and brokerage activities.
You have worked closely with several shipyards. Does that experience help with brokerage?
Knowing where and how a vessel is built makes all the difference when selling a boat to a client. Gone are the days when clients would buy a boat just based on the looks! Today's buyers are all more experienced on the subject, hence ask many technical questions themselves.
Having worked closely with several major American and Italian yards, I can tell the client if the asking price is justified in the quality of the build. This establishes much more trust with the client and when trust is achieved, you are halfway to the successful conclusion of a sale.
There are many large brokerage companies in the industry today. Is it difficult to compete?
Yes and no. Yes, because we don’t have the marketing budgets the big companies have, therefore it's harder to get our name out there. No, because more and more clients prefer to be looked after by a smaller company that can guarantee them a much more personal approach. But again, it's a big world out there and there are plenty of clients for all of us.
What makes you stand out from other brokers?
Since being involved with Hatteras Yachts as a dealer back in early 2000, I have successfully managed the sale and/or the construction of 100+ customised Hatteras and Cabo yachts for clients in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, so I guess I may be considered a Hatteras Yachts specialist. Plus, since working directly for the shipyard, I’ve traveled extensively to most international markets and boat shows globally, which has given me a good perspective on how different kinds of yachts sell better in different parts of the world. You don’t sell a yacht on the phone sitting behind your desk anymore today, you must be out there walking the docks worldwide - literally.
Is Hatteras gaining more ground in Europe?
Many people outside the U.S still associate the brand only to sport fishing boats, but with the new motor yachts that are being launched I trust this will soon change. The customers that bought a Hatteras in Europe in the past years were mainly looking for a yacht that could safely cruise and not just be a harbour queen. Among these buyers, only 50% of them actually used the boat for sport fishing, but with the new Euro-styled motoryacht models, the interest is shifting.
You listed the Terranova 115 Explorer earlier this year. Are these kinds of yachts easier to sell nowadays as there are many similarly styled vessels, or does it remain a niche market?
The Terranova is an interesting boat and I’m happy to see that the yard has a new investor that is re-launching the brand. There is a growing demand from clients wanting to reach far off destinations and are buying the kind of yachts that offer extended range and great on-deck space to carry a variety of tenders and water toys. The Terranova 115 is one of these kinds of boats.
You were at the MYBA Charter Show in Genoa. How is the charter market this year?
The MYBA charter show is a great venue to meet charter agents from all around the world and showcase your yachts. Sardinia is an area which is always in great demand and most of our CAs are based there with their summer calendars almost fully booked already. The charter business this year seems to be good. The confusion on what and when to apply VAT is now over, and the fear of misleading clients is gone too.
What does the future look like for Aqvaluxe?
The markets are still recovering and it's hard to give yourself long term objectives other than that to stay in business. In the short term, I can say we are working with a new shipyard on an exciting project which I hope will see the light soon, or better I should say, to touch the water soon!