The old ‘80s phrase, “Think Global, Act Local,” takes on a new meaning for yacht charters in the age of Covid-19. Six months ago, charter brokers were planning to send their clients to every corner of the globe on six- or even seven-figure yacht charters. Now, instead of taking the global approach, yacht charters for the next six months may not be local, but they will be much closer to home.
“Many of our clients are still nervous about flying, but they really want to get out on a yacht,” Jennifer Saia, president of B&B Yacht Charters, told Robb Report. “So we’re focusing on getting them into more local charters in places like Cape Cod, Nantucket, Block Island, or the Chesapeake Bay, where they can drive from their homes in the New York or Boston areas.”
Fraser Yachts has also witnessed a pent-up demand among its US clients, who often typically charter in the Med, and have launched a campaign called “Rediscover North America.” The campaign is focusing on the Northeast, but also on areas like Alaska, the Great Lakes, British Columbia and Florida.
“We’re seeing a focus on domestic charter as the best way to cope with travel restrictions,” says Lisa Peck, global marketing manager for Fraser Yachts. “We’re doing the same with countries in Scandinavia, Croatia, and others in Europe. We have Germans who want to travel to the yachts by car to limit exposure. We’ll offer a lot more yacht-based activities—water toys and games—to avoid going ashore.”
Daniel Ziriakus, chief operating officer for Northrop & Johnson, said the Ft. Lauderdale-based company is experiencing an increase in charter inquiries after activity came to a “screeching halt” in February and March. “We see more people booking for Alaska and the Caribbean,” he told Robb Report. “Others have pushed their European charters from June or July to September, with the idea that international travel will be restored.”
Some yachts have talked about moving to North America or the Caribbean from the Mediterranean to take advantage of any shifts in charter activity. The Fraser charter fleet in the U.S. includes Chantal Ma Vie, a 179-ft. Feadship, that will be moving between Florida and New England. Amarula Sun, a 164-foot 2008 Trinity that underwent a refit in 2018, will be travel between the Florida coast and the Bahamas.
Croatia is the first European country to announce that it will be open for the charter season, ahead of the usual stalwarts, Italy, France and Greece. “Croatia has never been a booming destination, but it always attracted people who like privacy and nature,” says Anastasia Legrand, a charter broker with Fraser. “It also has the advantage of having more than 1,000 islands so you can always find a spot away from the crowd.”
Fraser will have four of its yachts based in that country, and others in the Western Med had already planned to visit that country before the pandemic. “We expect it to attract more yachts this summer,” says Daniela DeMarco, head of charter management for Europe.
The summer season, typically over by Labor Day, may extend into September, according to Legrand. “I think there might be more interest in September charters, although I would expect more interest in the winter destinations perhaps for Thanksgiving and the December holidays,” she says. “I think the Caribbean will be busier than usual. And even destinations where Covid-19 was almost undetected, like the Galapagos and Maldives, could see more activity.”
The Fraser charter fleet has been busy doing “deep cleanings” on the yachts, says Peck, while also monitoring the crews. “Some owners are also buying ionizers to sanitize rooms on board their yachts,” she adds.
Of course, getting to the yacht can be the main sticking point for many charterers. Northrop & Johnson has signed an agreement with NetJets for private-aviation services to its yacht charter clients. “While a lot of our clients are staying closer to home, NetJets at least offers the option to travel globally,” says Ziriakus.