|Broker Interview: Kathleen Mullen of Regency Yacht Vacations|
Kathleen Mullen of Regency Yacht Vacations recently chatted with me from her office in the Virgin Islands about all that is happening in that yacht charter region, and more.
What do you see happening right now in the yacht charter market overall?
I’m seeing that the very small boats and inexpensive boats are going away. There used to be boats that were really cheap, and clients who were on a budget could go and keep it simple. There aren’t many more of them left anymore.
Is that because people are booking charters aboard bigger yachts instead?
The sailboat range where you can spend $20,000 to $50,000 a week are booking. So are the powerboats up to about $150,000 a week. I think the powerboats up over about $150,000 a week are struggling. There are more of them chartering than there used to be, and the people in that category are being careful with their money. They want to negotiate to see what they can get, and that makes it more difficult than in recent years.
In my niche market, the boats up to about 100 feet, business is strong. Those boats are as busy as they want to be.
How far in advance are people booking charters?
If you’re talking about popular dates like Christmas or New Year’s, you need to be looking close to a year out. Some of our yachts for the holidays in 2016 and into January of 2017 are already booked.
Those boats do still have other availability, outside of the most popular dates. Summertime is open, late January where there’s usually a lull is open, but a lot of our boats already have several weeks on those early 2017 calendars. The clients are booking without airfare because it’s too early to even get a plane.
Does that mean that people wanting to book a charter for this coming winter are already out of luck?
No, but people who are used to having a range of options are going to find less available. If you’re looking at spring break with the kids, you may be able to get one or two choices that meet your criteria—and you better decide now which one you want. It’s not that I’m trying to manipulate you in a sales technique. They’ll go to somebody else.
For the upcoming winter season, when are clients likely to find the most yachts still open?
Odd weeks open in February and late April are sometimes available, and usually that post-New Year’s hole in the calendars is a good time to look.
What’s new in the Regency Yacht Vacations fleet?
We have a new Lagoon 62 called London Sky with every bell or whistle you could name. She’s in fine condition, and she has technology, all the water toys.
What I’m finding is that we also have a number of boats now where the cuisine is really great. Lady Katlo (shown at right) has an excellent, excellent chef on board and does amazing food. We also have Xenia, an owner so stoked about the charter industry that he has three Xenias now, all conforming to similar standards. He has a 50, a 62 and a 74, all in the Virgin Islands. All his boats are in first-rate condition with well-trained crew, great chefs, all the water-sports toys.
Is there anything else charter clients should know about the Virgin Islands in particular?
The big news is a recent change in U.S. law that will allow many of the top 12-guest yachts that are MCA-inspected to begin charters in St. Thomas. That didn’t used to be allowed, and now it is. It opens up new possibilities for itineraries, if charter guests want to combine the U.S. and British Virgin Islands during their vacation.
CharterWave readers can contact Kathleen Mullen through the Regency Yacht Vacations website.