There can’t be many people who won’t be happy to bid adieu to 2020, and where better to do so than onboard a Christmas yacht charter in the Caribbean? Toasting friends with Champagne on a luxury superyacht might have seemed like a faraway dream at times during this unprecedented year, but yacht brokers are experiencing last-minute demand which they say bode well for the industry in 2021.
With many frontiers closed, airlines grounded and restrictive quarantine laws for those permitted to fly, 2020 has been a hugely testing year for the travel industry, including the luxury yacht charter sector. The charter yacht industry literally ground to a halt for great swathes of the Mediterranean season, with Caribbean destinations only fairing slightly better.
However, with extensive testing for crew and clients before yacht charters as well as rigorous hygiene protocols, luxury yacht charters are proving to be one of the safest ways to holiday in Covid-19 times, and the industry is beginning to reap the rewards. Below, we look at the yacht charter market trends for Christmas and the year ahead.
What to expect from the yacht charter market this holiday season?
Bookings for 2021 looking positive
After a challenging nine months, signs are pointing to 2021 as a much more positive year. Demand for summer next year is extremely encouraging, with yacht brokers stating that the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, alongside Christmas yacht charters, are also proving popular with clients.
Indeed, Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for the Moorings yacht charter company in the U.S, told Travel Weekly that rebookings and new customers meant that 2021 is “through the roof”, adding that they were “seeing a huge shift from the cruise industry into private yachts – for obvious reasons.”
Luxury yacht charters are not just benefitting from the demise of other less fortunate travel sectors like the cruise industry. The pandemic has led to a growth in recreational vehicle trips across the board, with superyachts providing the perfect vessel to facilitate this trend in the UHNW market. Superyachts offer the ultimate in comfort and quality and are incredibly safe – once aboard and in your ‘bubble’, you have no need to disembark. In fact, most superyachts are so well equipped with their own gym facilities, home cinemas and garages packed full of water toys that guests never want to leave.
Safety first for the yacht industry
The safety factor is extremely relevant for bookings next year, according to a survey by Virtuoso, a global network of travel agencies specialising in luxury travel, which found that 76% of affluent travellers would consider a holiday in a ‘pod’. Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso, told CNBC: “There is a strong desire to be with others, so travelling with another family, whether it’s relatives or a similar family who have been social distancing in the same way, allows for a more social vacation experience.”
And safety doesn’t just begin when guests step onboard the superyachts. A service being proposed by many leading brokers for 2021 is offering private jet transfers to and from charters, to ensure that clients feel 100 % safe whilst holidaying in these uncertain times.
Popular destinations for Christmas yacht charters and beyond
Unsurprisingly, the Caribbean is where most Christmas yacht charter guests are heading this year. The majority of luxury yacht charters typically take place in this region during the yuletide season, with fantastic weather and a festive atmosphere drawing visitors in, and so this is not news. However, the fact that the region has been particularly successful in keeping the Coronavirus pandemic at bay makes the Caribbean an even more attractive Christmas destination than in previous years.
Carissa Gulyas, founder of Your Wish Travel Co which specializes in yacht charters recently told trade magazine Travel Agent Central that “the Caribbean has always been a popular destination for fall and winter, but with so much of the rest of the world closed …. the Caribbean seems the place to be at the moment.” Meanwhile, Fraser chief executive Raphael Sauleau told Boat International that his firm was “seeing more and more requests for the Caribbean”.
Compared to many countries in Europe, and North and South America, Caribbean countries have suffered a relatively low impact from Covid. For example, the popular tourist island of Saint Martin has had 690 cases and 12 deaths, according to figures on the Caribbean news site Loop, whilst Antigua and Barbuda have had 139 cases and 4 deaths.
Each Caribbean country has issued its own entry requirements to ensure they keep the virus under control, from requiring a negative PCR test within seven days of flying to Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas, for example, to a nine-day quarantine in an approved accommodation when flying into St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Another popular destination this Christmas time is the Maldives, an idyllic archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The stunning island nation was one of the first countries to reopen its frontiers to international travel in July and requires all incoming tourists to provide proof of a negative Covid test result 96 hours prior to arrival.
Most countries require that visitors wear face masks when in public, but the beauty of renting a superyacht to explore Caribbean islands as well as the Maldives, for example, means that you are very rarely mixing with other people than your ‘pod’. Restaurants and bars are also open in most tourist resorts with strict social distancing protocols in place, but these restrictions will certainly be less stringent onboard your own yacht.
What to expect from the yacht charter market in the new year
With positive news that several vaccines against Covid-19 are almost ready to be rolled out, the travel industry as a whole is hoping that it will be business as usual by Easter of next year.
Hot destinations for 2021 are expected to include Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Croatia, Greece and Turkey, which have fared far better in terms of Covid than their Western Mediterranean neighbours. Travel operators have also noted a growing interest in sailing holidays in less well-chartered waters, such as the western fjords of Norway.
While yacht brokers are hopeful that clients will return to luxury charters in abundance, experts are predicting that there will be a number of changes to the way we travel post-Covid-19. Clients appear to be choosing to travel more locally, undertaking fewer long-haul plane journeys to travel to their final destinations. They are also choosing yachts to fit their own family ‘pod’ or ‘bubble’, which could see a run on smaller superyachts over larger superyachts in some circumstances.
However, there will undoubtedly be a small percentage of clients who actually decide to go even bigger and better than before, with trips planned for the most exotic destinations possible on the most luxurious superyachts to make up for the challenging year that we have all just experienced.
So, while much of 2020 has been a washout for foreign travel and luxury holidays across the globe, there is good reason to believe that the yacht charter market will rebound quickly in 2021. Reservations for the upcoming festivities and beyond are looking positive, with safety, isolation and luxury all playing a large role in making luxury yacht charters a hugely attractive holiday option for high-earners in a post-pandemic world.