Summer charter 2018: Season in review


Summer charter 2018: An “outstanding,” “but exhausting year”

The 2018 summer superyacht chartering season has drawn to a close with focus now swiftly moving to the Caribbean.

The overall impression of the 2018 season is resoundingly positive. Despite strong early bookings, the year ended with a rush (some things do not change). There was a rise in younger first-time bookings – book – but only under the strict condition that the yacht has an inflatable slide (from an unnamed source) and lots of toys.  And although the Summer charter is still (and probably always will be) dominated by the Med, many customers are now looking for new destinations.

Superyacht Investor spoke with three leading charter brokers -Fiona Maureso, charter director at Northrop & Johnson, Chris Gregory, charter broker at Burgess Yachts; Tamsin Priestley, director of yacht charter at Y.CO – to get their insight into 2018.

Strong advanced bookings then last-minute rush

“Once again for about the third year in a row we had a good start on advance bookings,” said Fiona Maureso, charter director at Northrop & Johnson. “At the beginning of the year we were very confident it would be a well-planned summer and then along comes March, it all peters out (as it has done now repeatedly) and it turned into a last-minute booking season which is stressful for everybody. “So, although it was successful it was absolutely exhausting.”

Chris Gregory, charter broker at Burgess Yachts, agreed: “In previous years we’ve seen constant demand and growth for chartering, especially for 2018 – it’s been another outstanding year.

“We’re seeing more yachts becoming available for charter and joining our growing fleet and positively the same increase in charter clients too.”

Tamsin Priestley, director of yacht charter at Y.CO said: “We have enjoyed a very successful summer season, the charter department was incredibly busy and showed a marked increase in 70 metre -plus bookings.”

Happy owners, despite a buyer’s market

So were owners happy with the season?  “Generally speaking yes,” said Chris Gregory. Although all brokers believe there has been more competition as more yachts became available.

“Owners were absolutely happy – we have seen a surge in last-minute bookings and ultimately the fleet was exceptionally active,” said Priestley. “We also saw an increase in low-season bookings – with June and early September proving popular.”

Mauresso agrees: “I would say they probably had as good a season as they ever had. I think there’s been a lot more competition. There’re over 100 more yachts available worldwide per charter this year over 24 metres – a 10% increase. The way that manifested was a lot of the boats were offering special deals to fill gaps in their calendar.”

And, of course, it is not just about the Summer. Gregory adds: “We are of course constantly focusing on booking more charters during the lower-season months for our owners.”

Exploring explorers

“The main trend we have seen is the move towards chartering larger vessels and adventure charters.” Said Tamsin Priestley.

“I think it’s picking up,” said Fiona Mauresso from Northrop. “I think that particular trend is being led by yachts being available in remote places.

“So, if you are going to Indonesia for example or to Papua New Guinea this winter you need an Explorer yacht. You can go for days without seeing another boat. You need to have a boat that can carry plenty of supplies, plenty of fuel, plenty of toys and that’s when the Explorer vessels come into their own.

“Same for Antarctica – we are now seeing yachts going down to Antarctica properly equipped and that’s attracting the clientele.  I think it’s as much the owners putting their explorers in interesting places as it is clients asking for them.”

Y.CO’s Priestley agrees. “We have seen demand for explorers both in mainstream locations and for cruising off the beaten track,” said Tamsin Priestley from Y.CO “We have seen an increasing interest in clients who want to cruise remote locations in style and comfort.”

Burgess’ Chris Gregory agrees: “With explorer-style yachts being relatively new and starting to explore remote parts of the world, we are certainly seeing more charter clients becoming interested,” said Chris Gregory from Burgess. “Whether you’re diving with whales in French Polynesia, exploring beneath the ice in a submarine in Antarctica or heli-skiing in Greenland, it’s super exciting and these charters offer new experiences to most.”

Brokers also personally enjoy this trend.

“I think we are seeing a bigger demand for more remote places which is great as it makes our job so much more interesting.” Mauresso adds: “The other trend of course is toys. It’s phenomenal. The rate at which they are producing new toys. It’s not enough to just have a kayak and a windsurfer, you’ve got to have all the other ones as well.”

2019 outlook

The general consensus on the 2018 summer charter season is extremely positive and they are all optimistic about 2019.

“For the moment we are seeing the same kind of interest in the west Med, a little bit in Greece but there is still a lot of uncertainty around Greece,” said Fiona Mauresso. “They are trying to make it easier to obtain charter licenses, however that’s going to take time to gain traction.

“There is growing demand for the Balearics now they have their charter license situation finalised. You could always cruise in Spain if you were private, but for charter you needed the license and it was almost impossible to do. That’s now changed, and it’s made all the difference.”

Chris Gregory adds: “We are seeing charter client’s book earlier each year to ensure they get the right yacht for them. Another growing trend I’d say is the focus on the crew. It is the competent team on board that makes 70% of the charter. A fun, experienced and welcoming team is crucial.”