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Four million fewer nautical miles sailed by superyachts in 2020

29 April 2021By Nic Robinson

Superyacht journeys slumped significantly last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with owners travelling over 4,000,000 fewer nautical miles than in 2019.

According to BOAT Pro’s AIS function, which closely monitors over 5,600 vessels, superyachts sailed over 13.1m nm in 2020, compared with 2019 levels when owners racked up an impressive 17.4m nm.

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Although the total distance travelled by superyachts in 2020 was much lower than the previous year, it was down less so on 2018 levels when the global fleet tallied 15m nm.

Annual distances travelled by superyachts

Heatmaps also showed a reduction in activity around major superyacht centres, such as Palma, Monaco, Naples and Barcelona when comparing 2019 with 2020.

Heatmap of Mediterranean shows significant activity in 2019
Heatmap of Mediterranean in 2020 shows reduced activity

Reduced activity in 2020 may have been a result of many yacht owners and users adopting a “wait-and-see” approach before travelling, according to BWA Yachting head of marketing and communications Francesca Fennucci.

“The main culprits [of reduced movement] were that restrictions on travel and non-citizen arrivals were in place in many popular destinations across Europe,” said Fennucci.

Such restrictions impacted the normal migration of yachts from the Caribbean in the winter to the Mediterranean for 2020’s summer season, and many private yacht owners changed their behaviour, resulting in an “important decrease in traffic”, Fennucci noted.

“Owners not only chose destinations that they considered to be ‘safer’, but also chose areas based on the activities still available.”

Superyacht owners who did manage to board their boats and travel were less “extravagant” than usual and balanced enjoyment on their yachts with the seriousness of the pandemic, she added.

And the trend of reduced superyacht travel has so far continued, with BOAT Pro data showing journeys are already down over half-a-million nm for the first quarter of 2021.

During the first three months of 2020, superyachts sailed 2.6m nm. However, for the same period this year shy of 2m nm were recorded – a decline of just under 600,000 nm.

For the first three months of 2019, superyachts were underway for a total of 2.2m nm, but April that year saw an impressive 1.4m nm sailed.

Distances travelled so far this year are also down

Yet, the downward trend of superyacht travel could be set to change as BWA’s Fennucci notes an increase in forward bookings, which is ultimately setting an earlier start to the 2021 season.

To see further growth, the yachting industry must boost confidence within the community to show travel can be carried out safely, she advised.

“We are very positive and have traffic growth expectations in 2021,” said Fennucci. “Yacht owners are keen to travel but are restrained in leisure space by the inability to do anything meaningful at the destination due to necessary public health precautions.”

“For a full recovery, I think it is necessary to look at 2022, but hoping for before.”

Image courtesy of: Nick Wehril

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