Following a rainy opening day yesterday here in Genoa, Italy, the 2013 MYBA Charter Show was in full swing today with warm sunshine and lots of brokers on the docks. Most had smiles on their faces and praise for the yachts on display, though there was a decidedly common feeling of caution when I asked how the yacht charter industry is shaping up for the summer season in the Mediterranean. Whether I asked about yachts headed to the West Mediterranean or the East Mediterranean, the answer was always the same: Business is slow.
These firsthand reports from the docks are admittedly from just one afternoon of asking around, and they are contradicted by a recent news release from Fraser Yachts Worldwide saying that the Mediterranean yacht charter market is looking up. But the brokers I saw today are all well known and strong in the industry, are based in different parts of the Mediterranean, and seemed to be unanimous in their thinking.
“I think it will be the same as last year,” a leading charter broker from Turkey told me. “We have very few advance bookings on the calendar. There are a few yachts that are exceptions, and August seems to be booking, but most of the boats still have open dates in July and September. I think we are going to have a lot of last-minute bookings again like last year, and that is if we are lucky.”
A longtime French broker told me that she thinks this summer in the West Mediterranean will actually be slower than last year: “My boats did well in the Caribbean this winter because American clients are booking again,” she said. “These same boats still have open calendars in the Med for July and August. The Europeans are having economic problems, and everyone is worried about VAT being charged in France, and the combination has made it so bad that some of my boats are not even coming to the Med at all this summer. They are staying in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. One boat had four charter inquiries for summer in the Caribbean, but only two for Croatia. This is still being driven by U.S. clientele.”
A longtime British broker said that she sees wide-open calendars for some excellent charter yachts in the Mediterranean: “Most boats have maybe one or two weeks booked right now,” she told me. “If business was really picking up, there would be more bookings by now. It’s nearly May.”
That British broker books a lot of charter yachts for clients in Greece, where, she said, she is starting to watch for signs that yachts are having sudden crew changes or maintenance issues. “They are taxing the yacht owners in Greece now, so the owners are cutting back in other areas,” the broker said. “It used to be that if you owned a bakery and brought croissants to your yacht, that you could write the yacht off as part of your business. Now the government is cracking down, and the owners are being forced to pay. That means they are letting crew go and letting maintenance go. I am inspecting the yachts there carefully before booking this summer.”
Despite this depressed market posture, I do think there is good news on the docks here in Genoa, too. The yachts that are on display are earning high praise for being in great condition, and for having professional charter crews who are eager to work. The fact that these top yachts still have summer availability means that even if you’ve been procrastinating on booking, you can still get a terrific vacation without having to worry that the best boats are already sold out.
More from the docks in Genoa tomorrow.