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MYBA Guidelines Tipping Policy

The professional organization of brokers is trying to standardize gratuities

During charter yacht shows such as the one I attended last week on Antigua, management companies hand out yacht brochures and information to brokers and the press. Typically, the list of “specifications” for each yacht includes things like the boat’s length, the number of guests it takes, and where it will be located during upcoming charter seasons.

There was a new “specification” that caught my eye at the boat show, though, one indicating whether a yacht “supports MYBA Guidelines tipping policy.”

I didn’t realize there was such a thing. So I did a bit of investigating.

As it turns out, this policy was quietly put into place this past summer, in an attempt to try to solve the problems that have been swirling for the past few years regarding charter crew gratuities. (In a nutshell, Americans tend to tip more than Europeans, skewing the norm.) Now, when charter yacht managers fill out the form that brokers use to tell clients about a yacht’s length, number of staterooms, and such, the managers also have to indicate whether the yacht agrees with the MYBA Guidelines on gratuities.

Those guidelines, I was told by multiple MYBA members in Antigua, state that in general, appropriate gratuities for a yacht charter crew are 5 percent to 10 percent of the yacht’s weekly rate. This differs from the printed MYBA captain’s guidelines I have seen, which are dated May 2008 and suggest a 5 percent-to-15 percent gratuity range. I’m not sure yet about why the discrepancy in numbers appears to exist, but the upshot is that MYBA is trying to recommend a suggested, appropriate gratuity range.

This is dicey stuff, to be sure. After all, a gratuity is just that–a gift to be given at the discretion of the charter client. Nobody wants to be told that they have to leave a tip, nor does anyone want to be told how much that tip should be.

And, in fact, charter clients will rarely, if ever, see this new listing on each yacht’s specification sheet. It is there for the brokers, charter managers, and yacht crew, to try to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what constitutes a “reasonable” gratuity. The idea is that brokers will notify their clients (you, the charterer) so that if the client receives good service, he will understand the industry norm for gratuity percentages. At the same time, charter yacht managers will notify the yacht captains of those same “appropriate” percentages so that they don’t expect or demand anything more.

The hope, of course, is that uncomfortable situations can be avoided by both you, as the charter client, and the hardworking crew who make your yachting vacation as good as it can be. No charter guest wants to “stiff” a crew simply because the guest didn’t know what levels of gratuity are typically given, and no good charter yacht captain wants to make an issue over the amount of gratuity given, should he feel “stiffed” after providing an excellent charter experience.

It’s too soon to tell whether these new MYBA Guidelines are having a major effect on this long-term charter industry problem, but in my personal opinion, simply getting the conversation off the docks and out into the open is an excellent first step toward creating a resolution. I’ll keep you posted down the road, after some more time has passed with the new guidelines in place.

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