When it comes to choosing a career, there are certainly worse ones which spring to mind than that of a superyacht charter broker. But for many, both inside and outside of the industry, the finer points of how you can make a name for yourself as a charter broker and what they do on a day-to-day basis can be lost behind a perception of onboard wine tastings and fam trips. To find out the truth of what it’s really like to be a superyacht charter broker, I trawled this year’s MYBA Charter Show and bothered as many brokers as possible.Photo: Camper & Nicholsons
As a charter broker, what are the common misconceptions that you come across about the job?
Sophie Holmes, Burgess
I think there is a perception that charter brokers are literally just booking agents for holidays and that there is this sort of hard drive for commission in our industry. But ultimately there is a lot more to the role than meets the eye. It’s about really knowing your yachts and crew and matching them to the personalities of the client, which is quite an art that you learn over time. At Burgess, we share information and work together as a team which I think is unique in the industry.
What qualities do you need to excel as a charter broker?
Barbara Dawson, Camper & Nicholsons
Knowing what the clients want, first and foremost. You need to know your locations and what you can offer them other than the boat. There are other reasons why these clients are going to these areas, so you need to know logistically what works in an itinerary. Typically I’ll generate an itinerary before the captain even has a look at it and say, ‘what do you think about this route?’ And then I fill in because he’s got so many other different responsibilities nowadays. You need to be able to work together with the crew and captains and to listen. Those are the two things that really pay off in the end.
Jacqui Lockhart, Camper & Nicholsons
You need to be available every day all day, and you’ve got to deal with different people and manage their expectations. I think if you approach it in the right way it’s enjoyable. It’s just not worth putting somebody on a boat that you don’t feel comfortable with. Sometimes clients go on board and for some reason, it’s not what they expected. They may come back to say ‘that could be done better,’ but most people are reasonable. Another challenge is that sometimes when you’re enquiring about yachts they’re not available, or they’re available but the owner changes their mind. But with experience and time, you learn how to deal with that.Photo: C&NHave you noticed any changes in client demographics?
Anne Sterringa, Camper & Nicholsons
Photo: Stuart Pearce
Being based in Spain, we tend to have a lot of Spanish and South American clients. The US is always very strong and Europe is stable with traditionally many clients from the UK. The Middle Eastern countries have come back after a few quiet seasons whereas we see the opposite with Russia. There was a peak and that market is now less active. A whole new market is opening in China which is very exciting and interesting. In general, I think the market is strong and demand is high because these days more and more clients look for the charter experience rather than owning a yacht.
What are clients looking for in a charter experience?
With larger and larger yachts being built, the pricing of charters is now coming into the range of what the pricing of owning a yacht used to be. So, the world is starting to look at chartering in a different way. There are enough people now who want to be able to have a lovely vacation on a yacht, as they would at any top resort, and it is a very important aspect of yachting these days.
Clients want a different kind of experience - they’re younger, much more active and they are no longer content to just cruise around and enjoy the yacht. They want to have water toys, they want to have magicians and entertainers coming aboard!Photo: Amels
Find a good, knowledgeable broker and get the information directly from them. It’s very dangerous nowadays with the internet because as the clients get younger they will look there first and there’s just so much false information online. On the charter market, there are around 1,500 yachts, yet on some of these sites, they’ve got about 5,000-6,000 boats! They show incorrect information on rates, areas, boats and crew.
It’s also a question of security, as with a broker, you always have a physical person or company that is liable. We put our names on the contract and if something goes wrong we have to sort it out. If you book through the internet, as soon as there is a small problem, they’re gone.
What would be your top tips for someone looking to break into the industry as a charter broker?
Aline Serret, Burgess
I have been in the industry for over seven years now, and it really is a great industry to get into. However, it can be long hours and very stressful at times. My top tip is to work hard, find a good brokerage house with experienced brokers who are willing to mentor you, and then absorb as much information from them as possible. It is really important to know the global charter fleet inside out so you can advise clients proficiently. Go to as many charter shows as possible, speak to the crew and really get a feel for each yacht. The ability to network and build long-standing relationships is a vital aspect of the role, so gaining experience in a client-facing role is invaluable before embarking on a career in charter brokerage.
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