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From the Docks at FLIBS: Light on the Horizon

The first day of the 2010 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has officially ended. I squeezed every last ounce out of it, working the docks from before 8 a.m. until after 8 p.m. to inspect yachts, ferret out trends, and get a sense of the current state of the charter market.

I’m happy to say that there is good news to report. After what feels like an endless stream of bad economic reports stemming from the global financial crisis, the tide may finally, mercifully, be starting to turn. At least a half-dozen leading charter brokers told me that their phones have started ringing with clients seeking advance bookings–instead of the last-minute deals and discounts that dominated the recent summer season in the Mediterranean.

Now, this good news is tempered a bit by the additional news that the calls coming in now are for charters during the 2011 summer season in the Mediterranean, as opposed to the upcoming Caribbean season (which several brokers told me may be “dismal”). On the other hand, those same brokers told me that a good number of yacht owners are helping to encourage the advance calls for next summer by offering reasonable deals such as low-season rates during the high-season months of July in August, in exchange for bookings that get on the calendar now.

The upshot, based on what I was told today, is that the effects of the global recession may start to ease for the luxury charter industry in the next 12 months. Nobody is predicting a return to the go-go years that preceded the recession, but a good number of smart people are suggesting a return to stability in the market, which would be a very nice change, indeed.