COVID-19 has forced us all to look at new, smarter ways of working. It has also made the yacht charter market rethink the road ahead, adjusting to changing real world conditions and customer attitudes. There have been some very interesting shifts recently, both as a direct result of the coronavirus and despite it.
As we all learn to live in a world blighted by a global pandemic, issues like cleaning procedures and safety measures become increasingly important.
Yachting remains a brilliant holiday option, and one of the safest ways to travel. On a yacht, you can drastically reduce contact with others and isolate in a self-contained space while enjoying a holiday in glorious weather. An excellent source of relaxation in the fresh air, holidaying on a yacht is about as self-sufficient as it is possible to be as you explore foreign lands.
The recent increased uncertainty surrounding travel has led to a marked decrease in the number of yachts sailing. This has led to emptier, quieter cruising grounds, a blissful break from the usually hectic high season rush to get in before the marina berths have all gone.
We conducted a survey of charter companies before the first lockdown which paint an interesting picture of the path ahead. Read on as we digest the data and developments and gaze into the Helm crystal ball to predict the future of the charter industry.
The shape of things to come
Over the coming years, the yacht charter industry is going to have to be more adaptable to sudden change, and offer solutions to suit their customer base.
We expect to see far more flexible booking policies, with reduced and/or refundable deposits, to encourage bookings. This way, customers reduce their level of risk, with balances due closer to the departure date.
For example, if something (like a global pandemic) forces you to cancel or prevents you from going on holiday, some companies issue a voucher for the value of the deposit, which can be redeemed at any point in the following 18 months.
The companies that best react to shifting situations, customer demand and government actions will be the ones who will win customer trust. Contracts will become more flexible – the recent MYBA COVID-19 addendum is an excellent example of this.
We are seeing a pronounced shift away from entry level yachts towards boats that offer a more stylish and comfortable place to spend time. 65% of respondents in our survey said that customers are placing an increasing importance on the quality of their yacht.
One trend has been the huge leap forward in yacht design, with catamarans becoming ever more popular. In our survey, 80% of charter companies said they had seen customer demand shift from monohulls towards catamarans.
Part of the reason for this has been huge growth in yachting as a holiday option for non-traditional yachties, with skippered and crewed yachts allowing anyone to enjoy a holiday without having to be a qualified captain.
The popularity of TV shows like Below Deck and trips like the Yacht Week has also introduced a large, young group to the joys of yacht charters in Croatia, Greece, and the Caribbean.
In the words of Ben Robinson, chef on the reality show, “It’s done wonders for the charter business because it has put it on people’s radars. It’s been this unveiling of the secret society on the water.”
The presence of a professional skipper and/or crew to look after you puts you at ease and lets you fully enjoy your time aboard.
We expect this trend to continue as customers search for memorable holiday experiences that are safe, fun, and always great value.
Hand in hand with the growth in demand for more comfortable yachts with more water toys and better furnishings comes increasing demand for larger boats.
There has also been a surge in bookings among ultra-high net worth individuals, as wealthy people look to self-isolate in absolute luxury afloat.
Size is beginning to matter more and more, with 45% of our charter company respondents saying customers are prioritising larger boats than before.
In an increasingly well connected world, digital communications have definitely taken the lead. We expect the yacht charter industry to continue the recent trend of growing its online presence.
Brokers like HELM will make more information available at the touch of a button - our new Yacht Finder function gives you an easy tool for searching, with absolute transparency on pricing.
Customers can expect even more channels to communicate directly with their broker, with online chat and platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger making it ever easier to stay in touch.
Clean & Safe
Never before have cleaning procedures been so important on yachts.
Many charter companies have completely revamped their policies, placing a real emphasis on thoroughly fogging/fumigating and disinfecting each yacht at the end of each charter, so they are absolutely pristine for the next guests.
Companies have added thorough testing kits on board all of their yachts, and ask all skippers to keep a daily temperature log.
Hand sanitiser is already becoming much more prevalent, both on board and ashore.
James and Peter took their families to Greece and Croatia respectively this season, and were impressed with the social distance measures and cleaning processes in restaurants and at the base.
They both felt very safe at all times.
Getting to know the crew you will be spending your holiday with is also going to be of growing importance, and we expect companies to supplier far fuller profiles for their captains, stewards, chefs and deckhands over the coming years.
This is one of several added personal touches we see coming soon, alongside example menus that paint a picture of the meals you can expect on board.
We’re all increasingly aware of the impact our actions have on the planet around us, and the importance of enjoying yacht charters as sustainably as possible.
Charter companies and yacht designers are reducing their footprints, removing plastics and developing clever solutions. After making big technical strides, we expect solar to have a huge role to play. See more here.
The airline industry is even developing a new hydrogen-based way to power planes that could revolutionise travel.
The Mediterranean and Caribbean have always been the traditional yacht charter hubs, but now new cruising grounds like Thailand are on the up, as travellers look for more interesting and less crowded places to sail.
The growth in Southeast Asia will also be fed by a shift away from more expensive bases. A shift away from European marinas with high mooring costs will hurt Spain and Italy, as seen with Sunsail’s decision to pull out of Palma.
A Brave New World
Overall, while it has been a challenging year for everyone, the future looks bright.
As we saw with the travel corridors this summer, once travel restrictions are lifted, people will be desperate to get back on the water, exploring the wonderful world around us.
Chartering a yacht remains the best way to get away from busy crowds and enjoy peaceful relaxation, and we think it’s pretty hard to beat a week or two on a yacht (we may be a little biased, though!).
Use our Experience Builder to create your bespoke yacht charter today!