|Broker Interview: Allison Cecilio, U.S. Charter Director at Boatbookings|
Allison Cecilio recently became U.S. charter director handling retail bookings at BoatBookings. Previously, she spent 14 years working for yacht owners as a charter manager, plus another few years as a brokerage yacht sales assistant. I caught up with her today to learn why she made the switch to the retail side of the charter industry.
You were a charter manager for more than a decade, first with the Sacks Group Yachting Professionals and then, after it was acquired, with the new parent company International Yacht Collection. Most charter managers don’t stick it out that long because the job is so demanding, with yacht owners and brokers constantly pulling at you. How does it feel to be on the other side of the deal now, working exclusively for the charter clients?
With retail, I’m selling to the clients who want to go on vacation. I’m thrilled. People who see me say I look completely different, and it’s because I’m not having to do things like wake up at 3 in the morning and deal with the European market in the summertime.
You’re based in Fort Lauderdale. Does that mean you focus on business in the United States?
I handle the U.S., South America, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, but because I do have global knowledge from being a central agent with yachts in the Mediterranean and South Pacific, Boatbookings will use me in those areas, too, if demand is high.
Is the U.S. office for Boatbookings going to include anyone other than you?
Yes, on October 1 we have a graduate of the Boatbookings internship program coming over. His name is Ben Sutton. He’ll be with me at all the fall and winter boat shows, so we’ll have two brokers in the Fort Lauderdale office.
How is your prior experience as a charter yacht manager helping you to get the best retail deals for charter clients now?
One of the reasons that Boatbookings was looking to hire charter managers is that we have to know more than the charter brokers in the industry. You have to have more knowledge of the contracts, the VAT, the taxes and the rules and regulations of chartering around the world. You’re educating the yacht owners and also the retail charter brokers.
Now, when I contact the central agents about the boats, I can tell who’s on their game and who’s not. It benefits the client because I can get a quicker answer. I also know that certain companies really look after their boats, really know the crew and really know that the yachts are maintained well. Being in the industry for so many years, I really got to learn the owners too—and a lot of them will contact me directly and maintain a relationship, so I have a few back-pocket boats that I can book.
How are you enjoying working directly with charter clients for the first time?
“It is so nice to sell the vacations. I’m dealing with people who have never chartered before, and it’s a magnificent family vacation. Putting it together and following it through and hearing their comments afterwards—I never got to hear that before. I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier.
Since your area of expertise is now the Bahamas and Caribbean, how do you see the market shaping up so far for charters during the winter 2014-15 season?
The catamaran business is great. They’re already booking up through Christmas and New Year’s, and even into the spring 2015 vacations in the British Virgin Islands.
For the bigger boats, there’s still time to book. They’re not going as quick. You have availability now, and I know those boats well. I either managed them or competed against them as a central agent, so I can be very helpful to clients with those bookings.
CharterWave readers can contact Allison Cecilio at the Boatbookings website.