With COVID-19 vaccination programmes being rolled out across the globe, many of us can start to see a return to normality, but what does this mean for the yachting industry, and yacht recruitment in particular? Will the recruitment industry in this extremely niche luxury travel sector recover to pre-pandemic norms, or will we see a continuation of impact from COVID in 2021?
Yacht recruitment: Pre-COVID
In order to present a clear picture of the yacht recruitment outlook for this year, it is important first to look at the status of the industry before COVID hit.
According to a report by our client YPI CREW, the job market was booming, with experts claiming that it had never been a better time to find work on a yacht. The majority of yacht crew jobs (42%) were on yachts of 71 metres or more, but demand for crew on boats between 31 and 50 metres had also increased by 10%, with 93% of total yacht jobs were on motor yachts, with 65% of jobs being on private yachts.
However, when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11th 2020, the industry was one of many that was severely impacted, with worldwide travel bans meaning yachting essentially came to a halt.
How did COVID-19 affect the yacht recruitment industry?
In an annual report this year, director of YPI CREW Laurence Lewis explained that the yacht crew recruitment market was hit “fast and violently” as a result of borders closing to limit the Covid fall-out, with “brutal impact”.
“Overnight, many crew lost part or all of their incomes. Even if still working, many crew, from Captains down to junior ranks, had to accept salary cuts and slashed rotations.
“The impact was brutal because we were hit at the beginning of the Mediterranean recruitment season. March, April and May are the busiest months for crew recruiters and so, when we registered an 80% drop in turnover in April 2020 compared to April 2019, we knew it was going to be a tough ride.”
However, some recruitment firms were able to make the best of the situation, using the lockdown to build closer relationships with clients and candidates. When the charter season finally began in July 2020, these agencies were in a very strong position to supply the demand for crew.
“We ended up registering the best months of July, August and September ever in our 18-year history,” said Laurence, adding that their turnover dropped by just 18% in 2020, which with all things considered, was an incredible result.
What can we expect to see happen to yacht recruitment this year?
Many recruitment firms are feeling positive about the job market in 2021. YPI’s Laurence is “quietly confident” that the year ahead will allow for a longer yachting season in the Med this year, with vaccines already being deployed around the world. This would hopefully allow the yacht job market to recover.
She said that recruiters were also waiting to see if there would be a further move towards crew rotation as owners decide to spend more time onboard for ‘safe’ holidays – and as a new option to working remotely.
Laurence’s optimism is shared by Nicola Morgan and Liam Dobbin, of wilsonhalligan yacht recruitment, although their view is slightly more cautious. They told Onboard Online that whilst we may not be out of the woods yet “there certainly looks to be some glimmer of hope on the horizon for 2021.“
For a successful summer season, the wilsonhalligan team explained that it was imperative the vaccine rollout happened quickly and that Brexit did not throw up any unforeseen problems. They said: “We are optimistic that this [Brexit] will not pose a long-term challenge to our industry and could see possible benefits (to the UK at least) if for example more yachts leaving Northern European yards head to the UK to clear out of the EU. However, the situation remains uncertain for now.”
The number of jobs currently advertised for the summer season appears very promising and would suggest the job market has gained pace. For example, YPI CREW has more than 200 open yacht jobs including 90 positions in the Deck department and 30-plus openings in the Engineering department. On top of this, there are more than 110 open positions for chief stews, Nurses and Chefs. At time of writing, the bluewater yacht crew job board has 180 live jobs advertised.
What’s changed for yacht job seekers in 2021?
According to Mark Charman, CEO and Founder of Faststream Recruitment, would-be crew members might have noticed a few changes when looking for work this year. He told the world’s largest RYA training centre in the world UKSA that some of the traditional paths to yacht jobs have been closed off to new candidates – for example dock walking has become less prevalent due to COVID restrictions.
Mark added that the majority of those who have been successful at finding yacht opportunities tended to be those who made sure their CVs were up-to-date, kept in touch with recruiters and were ready and willing to move at short notice.
The recruitment process has also been modified in the light of the pandemic in many cases, with many more Zoom interviews taking place until the final phase of the process, when face to face meetings can only be scheduled after a negative COVID test result.
At Relevance Yachting we share Mark’s optimism for a successful yacht recruitment campaign in 2021, with some yachting hotspots already open to tourists without need for quarantining (dependent on a vaccination or negative COVID test), and many more set to follow this summer.
As Mark said: “Superyachts will still be needed… and so will the faithful crews who man them. Superyachts are viewed as a safe option for a holiday destination. Many will require a break from ‘home’ and will welcome a getaway on a luxurious yacht with their loved ones – this could set both private and charter yachts up to have an incredibly busy season.”
Our team is looking forward to a full summer season of supporting our yacht recruitment clients in their marketing needs. Get in touch with Relevance Yacht today to find out how we can help you.