As countries begin to reopen their borders the charter industry is ready and rearing to go, but in light of the recent COVID-19 crisis, many yachts and marinas have had to adapt their plans and procedures to ensure the health and safety of both guests and crew. To help charterers understand how the pandemic has impacted the industry, BOAT International hosted a live discussion with three industry professionals who shed some light on what chartering a yacht might look like post-pandemic.
In the discussion, we were joined by chief executive of superyacht adventure specialist EYOS, Ben Lyons, captain Colin Richardson of 53m charter yacht Mirage and director of Porto Montenegro Tony Browne.
Charterers cruising out of Porto Montenegro are now opting to maximise time spent on board, Browne said. "We're seeing people getting on the yachts are really enjoying spectacular scenery, anchorages and backdrops and not stepping ashore as much for shoreside experiences as you would anticipate." In many places, restaurants and bars have a limited capacity, so instead, charterers are choosing to make the most of their onboard chef to whip up some local dishes.
"The Adriatic is a naturally spectacular location. You can work your way up and down the islands... its something that you can do without really needing to get off the yacht," he added.
Captain Colin Richardson agreed that fewer charter guests are stepping ashore. "They're not really coming to embrace a culture or a country or cuisine, they're coming to get on a yacht wherever they can. If they can fly privately and they're allowed to land and they're allowed to embark, I don't think this year is where they're going to take in any historical and cultural experiences."
While the Mediterranean is still getting back into the swing of things, Browne and Lyons both agreed that remote destinations are now more appealing to charter clients than ever. "One of the great things about the expeditions and the trips that we run is that we go to places where there isn't the infrastructure. If there isn't infrastructure, there aren't crowds of people and correspondingly there isn't COVID-19," said Lyons.
In a typical summer, EYOS would be running trips to Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard, but this year their calendar is dictated by countries with the clearest travel restrictions and protocols. "We found that the greatest success this summer is in areas that had very clear regulations in terms of what travel was allowed and places that generally had the COVID situation under control." Lyons explained that Alaska is a "choice destination" for American clients as there would be no issue with repatriation or medical care, as well as Iceland which has a "very strong testing procedure in place".
He added: "Everybody still has a desire to travel but it's about selectively choosing where you want to go and where you're going to feel the safest."
In the live discussion, captain Colin Richardson also outlined how safety measures are being introduced on board superyacht Mirage, which is offered for charter through Superyacht Sales & Charter. "Prior to embarkation, we have asked all our charter clients to responsibly self isolate themselves before they come over. We've also asked them whether they want the crew to wear masks." Other new protocols include isolation and testing for rotational crew before they embark as well as COVID-19 test kits on board in the event of someone displaying symptoms.