Italian yacht charter market feeling impact of Covid-19 lockdown
Marco Sabadin/AFP via Getty Images
The yacht charter market has been brought to a standstill, particularly in Italy, where an industry leader described the boot of Europe as a “red zone”. Now the Caribbean charter season is drawing to a close, charterers look to summer 2020 and the Mediterranean.
Carlo Benveduti, chief operating COO of yacht charter platform, YOTHA, told Superyacht Investor the coronavirus pandemic is of big concern.
Benveduti said: “It’s true that the impact of coronavirus is a huge concern for yachting and the travel industry as a whole. With the winter season now wrapping up in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and parts of Asia, the summer 2020 season in the Med has a big question mark over it. Flights are now cancelled to and from the US – a big market for us – with European borders now in question too.”
Chartering hotspots, according to Benveduti, like Italy, with its many charter destinations, is currently a total red zone and when these regions will have recovered from the virus is hard to predict. Even Montenegro, which YOTHA says is a very popular charter destination at present, are not allowing boats coming from Italy and Spain if they visited these countries in the past 14 days.
Benvenuti added: “Although Greece remains ‘safe’, there will be issues reaching final ldestinations. Understandably, our booked charter guests and those considering charters have a lot of questions. Luckily, we have a strong customer service team of experts on hand 7/7 to put our guests’ minds at rest and inform them of all the latest news.”
The challenges presented by coronavirus require mitigation and YOTHA is advising its clients to postpone departures while it waits to see how the situation unfolds. Benvenuti said, “We are dealing with it on a case- by-case basis and we have to be flexible. This includes adding a clause in the charter contract related to coronavirus, to protect the charterer should the charter be cancelled.
“Internally, our team has already begun working remotely. As a digital platform, teleworking will not affect us. We will still be able to manage our business effectively. In terms of expenditure, we are saving our budget today so that it will be better used when the market is favourable again.”
In the short term, the cancellation of major events on the Côte d’Azur such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix in May, Benvenuti said is certainly not good for business. But customers who have spent €250,000 plus for a week’s charter on their dream superyacht are reluctant to cancel, he added.
Benvenuti continued: “We have also had more enquiries about summer charters in traditional winter destinations such as the Caribbean and the Bahamas. On the whole, we are optimistic that sooner or later the situation will turn around and we will see a recovery of bookings.
“The pandemic emphasises the importance of simplifying life and using digital short cuts. This is something we are already bringing to the yacht industry. The industry must understand that this is the future – and we have already stepped into it.”
Benvenuti noted that with extra hygiene methods in place, such as sanitising yachts, pre-screening crew etc, being stranded in the middle of the Caribbean Sea is certainly not the worst idea. “With islands such as St. Lucia having less than a handful of cases right now. If you’re going to self-isolate, why not live out the next few months on a private yacht.”
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