I traveled last week to the sunny shore of Rhode Island for the 2015 Newport International Charter Show. The show was small compared with others, such as the MYBA Charter Show in Europe and the Antigua Charter Yacht Show in the Caribbean, but that’s fairly typical of the Newport event, given that New England is a smaller market for yacht charter than the Mediterranean or Caribbean. Of the two dozen or so yachts that were on the docks in Newport, quite a few were good ones–and I heard more than a few reports that business is really looking up.
In fact, the yacht I was most interested to tour, the 116-foot Crescent motoryacht Unbridled, which just finished a $6 million refit, had to back out of the show because a late charter booking came in for New England. That type of last-minute chartering seems to be the theme in New England this summer. Several of the managers at leading companies with yachts in New England told me the boats were busy, but usually with last-minute bookings from Newport all the way up to Maine. For anyone still thinking about a summer getaway, that’s good news. It means top yachts may still be available, and their owners are likely interested in making a quick deal.
At the same time, brokers from all across the United States and Caribbean told me that advance bookings for the winter season are anything but last-minute. We are about six months ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and I heard again and again that most of the better charter yachts are already booked for those holidays, from the Virgin Islands on down to the Grenadines.
When I combine this news with announcements like the one that came earlier in June from Yachting Partners International, which says the current Mediterranean yacht charter season is so strong that it may turn out to be the best ever for the company, I think it’s hard to argue that the charter industry is anything but fully recovered from the downturn that followed the 2008 global economic crisis. All the primary charter markets are now reporting strong bookings once again.
For clients, this means we’re no longer in a buyer’s market, and that booking ahead and receiving fewer discounts is probably going to return as the norm. From what brokers at Newport told me, clients are having a hard time receiving any more than a 10-percent discount on published charter rates, and some yacht owners will no longer negotiate at all. That sounds like 2004 or 2005 to me; by 2006 and 2007, there were actually bidding wars among clients for top yachts during the holidays.
We’re obviously not there yet, and maybe never will be again, but suffice it to say that the charter business is once again solid in its primary markets worldwide.