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Booking up: The charter forecast for 2018

Booking up: The charter forecast for 2018

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A very good year

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OneOcean Port Vell Barcelona

With reports of a bumper Mediterranean season and quality vessels in hot demand, Sophia Wilson talks to the charter industry to get the insider lowdown

1. A very good year

“The charter market in 2017 was the strongest market we have seen in a decade,” says Burgess charter manager Ben Harwood. It’s a statement of positivity echoed across the industry, with brokers reporting more enquiries and strong demand during the peak periods of last year. “Generally, charter clients were spending money, booking early and upgrading their trips rather than taking the cheaper options that were presented,” says Northrop & Johnson’s charter retail director John Cichanowicz. “As long as the markets continue to rally [at least in the US] and the world keeps spinning, clients are spending money and want to charter bigger, better yachts.”

Picture courtesy of Facebook.com / OneOcean Port Vell Barcelona

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Quantity of quality

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Here Comes The Sun spa

As well as strong interest, Northrop & Johnson’s Fiona Maureso has seen a growth in spend, with a focus on securing quality rather than the best discount. “Clients are back to wanting the very best that the market has to offer and they are willing to pay for it,” says Maureso, who is also president of MYBA. This shift has left some brokers struggling to source top yachts during popular periods.

“The market was very active in 2017 with generally increased bookings and a marked increase in demand, resulting in a lack of suitable available yachts during the peak periods of July and August,” says Camper & Nicholsons’ senior charter broker Susan Kidd. According to Edmiston’s senior charter broker Natalya Manoukian, the best yachts with professional crews are being booked at least six months, and sometimes up to a year, in advance. “We are already taking large bookings for the summer with strong demand for yachts 50 to 80 metres in length – this shortage of supply is my only real concern,” she adds.

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Irma impact

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Christophe Harbour

Despite positivity about the market, especially in the Mediterranean, last year’s hurricane season had a profound impact on the Caribbean. “After a successful summer, winter saw a decline in charters booked in the Caribbean due to the destructive impact of hurricanes Irma and Jose on the islands of St Martin, the BVIs and St Barths,” says YPI’s charter director Annemarie Gathercole. “Although St Barths, a hugely popular island, has rallied and rapidly picked itself up, with many restaurants and beach bars reopened, it’s clear that clients were put off going there. This was demonstrated by the unusually high number of charter yachts advertising last-minute Christmas and New Year deals.”

While numbers were down there was also a huge amount of support from within the yachting community. “We were overwhelmed with the positive stance from owners deciding to position their yachts in the Caribbean to support and help rebuild the islands in need,” says Burgess charter broker Chris Gregory. “There was definitely a feeling of support for the region from captains, owners and clients,” adds Manoukian.

Traditional Caribbean hotspots did suffer but this meant alternative destinations were given a chance to shine. “There were more charter bookings — perhaps more than ever — for the Windward Islands, particularly from Grenada to St Lucia. This presented a great opportunity for clients to explore areas they might not have been to before; owners were willing to offer great incentives for guests to do so,” says Cichanowicz.

Additionally, the latter end of 2017 saw an increase in last-minute bookings as a result of uncertainty around the Caribbean. "While the hurricanes definitely had an impact on the winter charter season, I think the biggest thing we noticed was the timing of the inquiries," says Moran charter manager Sean Zamora. "The bulk of our inquiries this year were very last minute, however we were able to secure charters for clients."

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