Thank you for 2020 – This is what we have learned and like to share

Dear valued customer and partner, 

The Yacht-Match team and our trusted partners in the Yacht-Match Network like to thank you for all the support and pleasure you have given. For trusting us with your holiday plans and for allowing us to take part in your journey to become a yacht owner.  

This season is not over as our colleagues and our owner’s yachts in the Caribbean are just welcoming their first charter guests. However, the year is coming to its end. In spite of a desire to mention the hardships and struggles, we like to reflect over what we have learnt and how that will help you with your plans for 2021. 

The effects of Covid-19 on the yacht charter market  

The yacht charter business follows the government guidelines and adapts their Corona policy to the latest insights. Every charter operator has extensive safety procedures to keep their clients healthy on board of their vessels. After all, there is no safer place than being on a boat.  

In our short statement at the beginning of this pandemic we addressed these issues and effects that we might see in the charter market during 2020 and the covid-19 pandemic. 

This year began with high hopes for the 2020 season. We all expected the best season ever in the boating business. The shipyard’s where producing on full capacity. The yacht charter business enjoyed the highest occupancy rate ever. Yacht-Match had doubled her turnover, and we expected to grow even faster in 2020. Q2 was one of uncertainty, Q3 was one of hope for a quick recovery, Q4 was a setback. But now we see the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021 with the vaccines coming available! 

Europe

As the season in Europe is coming to its definite end (apart from short weeks around new years in the north Adriatic). We can conclude that there is a very different approach to how the smaller independent and local charter fleet operators have coped with the restrictions and how the bigger global charter fleet operators have addressed the issues.  

The 2019 season in Europe was a huge success across a majority of different yacht charter markets. Our partners in the Caribbean stated that 2019 would have been the best season ever since the start of the yacht charter business for more than 40 years ago. – If it hadn’t been for the pandemic that hit the market in early February 2020. 

What effects did COVID-19 had on the Yacht-Match boutique charter fleet operators?

Across the majority of the Yacht-Match boutique charter fleet operatorswe have seen a decline of charter bookings of ca 36-38% in 2020 compared to the 2019 season. We see this as a success rather than a disaster. – As we have been able to adapt and overcome something as unprecedented as the Covid-19 pandemic. The reasons why our independent charter fleet operators and Yacht-Match where able to retain much of its business are down to the following actions and company culture: 

1. Smaller fleet

The boutique charter operators are local and independent charter fleet operators specialising in niche yacht charter business. They are particularly good at what they do and aren’t concerned about being profitable rather aiming for continuous growth. These are the reasons why they yet again overcome hardships like this pandemic and retain a loyal customer base and a healthy relationship with their boat owners (“investors”). 

2. Flexible leasing agreements 

The local charter fleet operators and Yacht-Match predominantly work with financial leasing and bespoke financing solutions. These are only achievable with a close cooperation from specialist leasing institutions in the yacht charter market that comprehends the market and can offer contingency plans for such events that have followed in the pandemic. We specialise in the charter management business and therefore work only with local and niche charter operators.  

3. Closer dialogue with the charter brokers

Our approach and that of our local independent operator to the network of charter brokers and agencies that represent the majority of bookings, is always to be in close contact, work with continuously informing each other, value commitment and service above price and quantity, and stay customer orientated. The tight dialogue and long-term relationships build up from many years of business is fortified through the events such as this pandemic. In a partnership and cooperation, we succeed by making each other stronger and find solutions together.  

4. Closer dialogue with the charter clients

Most often we come in contact and maintain a closer relationship with our clients due to: A particular interest, years of planning their holiday and that we share the same thoughts on yacht charter and the values around how this should be operated. Clients that prefer working with boutique charter operators and also with charter brokers strongly affiliated with these charter fleet operators appreciate the strong sense of familiarity, the level of high maintenance, the flexible approach and quick resolve, and the fact that they are in a dialogue directly with the business owners. It’s a personal business with humans that care and with so many wonderful moments that have been shared over years. 

5. Shared interest and closer cooperation with the boat owners in the fleet

A yacht charter management with a local and independent charter fleet operator, one with a strong and good reputation, is a business where you share the same interest and its build on a strong partnership. If done right, the yacht charter management by the operator will treat you as the business investor where the key words are transparency, understanding of your preference and what is important to you.

You will always be informed accordingly and will have a better chance to be pro-active and trust that your charter management provider will share his interest and making sure you stay with your business and that his expertise will reassure that actions are taken where you concerns are not secondary.  

What effects did COVID-19 had on the global yacht charter fleet operators?

It has been a much tougher year for the global yacht charter fleet operators that dominate the bare boat yacht charter market with destinations in several countries and also offering yacht ownership programs to thousands of investors/boat owners. 

At the start of the pandemic, we reported that a few of the well-known international operators took early and direct measurements and the approach of informing and keeping a steady and open dialogue with everyone concerned. It seemed promising for the likes of the French owned DYC as they calmed worried yacht program owners and also charter guests with the promise that they would offer solutions to either extend contracts, offer pay-back and bailout options and also new payment structures for the new charter guests with very low down-payments (10%).  

Unfortunately, it’s a hard task to manage not just the interest and demands of your charter guests. But also the demands and requirements of running a fleet of hundreds of yachts. Which are tied up with monthly leasing instalments and the costs of ownership and maintenance. 

The result has been that both a well-known Scandinavian and French operator have failed to meet payments to the marina for mooring in Croatia for two years. They have consequently left the marina a found harbour/anchored for a majority of their yachts away from the mainland.  

Reports from owners of yacht ownership programs

Reports from several owners of the yacht ownership programs have told the story that they have been denied access to their yachts. Also that they have been forced to accept new conditions and changes made to their existing yacht ownership agreements.  

A Belgian client 

– With his second yacht in a well-known Scandinavian charter fleet operator, told Yacht-Match that he was denied access to his yacht in Croatia. Upon arrival at the base the yacht was no longer in the marina. He later found out that it had been moved. This as a result of the operator not having paid the marina fees. The Belgian yacht owner then found out where it laid anchor. He then took a boat-taxi to the yacht that was anchored up in the middle of the bay close to the marina, and he continued with his two weeks that he is entitled to in his contract with the operator. 

Another report from a Danish client

-With his first yacht in an ownership program, told that he was very concerned about the maintenance and condition that his yacht would be left in if the charter operator would not be able to get bookings and charter income to cover the upkeep and maintenance during 2020.

He therefore contacted the global charter fleet operator to discuss and early exit and the bail-out conditions of his yacht ownership program. Negotiation where promising and he was offered a bailout to which he accepted. He then started planning for the phase-out and transfer of rights so that he could move his yacht to a new destination and perhaps another charter management provider. 

At the end, the charter operator withdrew their offer and the danish clients right to bail-out. In any other circumstance, the owner of the yacht or the person that holds the lease, would be able to withdraw and pay the residual value (bail-out). But in the instance with yacht ownership programs with the global charter fleet operators, the ownership program holder is not the lease holder or has a connection agreement with the bank/leasing institution.  

This is not uniquely a story told only by the Danish client. It happens frequently, due to the nature of the ownership programs agreement and its stipulations. From what started as a mutual beneficial solution for the bother charter operator, that could cash in early and not be held to the responsibility laid out in the ownership program, and the danish program holder, that wanted an early exit, it ended in disappointment because clearly the charter operator is bound to the formal regulations of the leasing contract and its own interest and investors who needed the particular yacht to still be part of the fleet the remainder of the contract.  

Summary

In summary, the aftermath of this pandemic, as also shown in the last crisis of the hurricane in the Caribbean in 2017 and the surge of immigrants crossing Turkish and Greek water in 2016/17, reveals the business ethics and who are really of importance in the structure of how a yacht charter fleet operators’ business is run.  

What is quite worrying is the fact that the global charter fleet operators still offer the guaranteed programs and the fact they so quickly forget their own investors (the yacht owners and program holders) when things get rough. 

We hope that in 2021/22 there will be a regress to a normalisation of the benefits in the yacht charter ownership programs offered by the global charter companies. Also that new prospecting boat owners become more aware of the difference in the charter ownership programs and the charter management agreements and how it affects their investment when the market and their charter fleet operator is faced with difficulties. 

The Leasing & Yacht Charter Financing 

In November the French Directorate of Tax Legislation (DLF), part of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, clarified key elements concerning the new VAT regulations regarding pleasure boat rentals and leasing payments. 

In essence, the rental of pleasure boats in France is subject to the standard French VAT rate of 20%. Except for time spent by the boat during the rental outside French territorial waters (beyond 12 miles). Whereas previously the administration admitted that this time could be considered to amount to 50% of the rental period and therefore gave the right to a reduction of 50% of VAT, this time will now have to be assessed.  

This will have some implication on how private yacht owners could finance their yacht purchase through the well-known yacht leasing banks connected to most of the French shipyards. But ultimately also how the charter ownership programs offered by global charter companies will be able to offer the same low initial payments and balloon structure of their very popular part-financing ownership programs. For more information, click here

Reports from the well-known European yacht leasing banks discloses that most of the indicative leasing offers during April-August were put on hold, subsequently delaying the decision of many new yacht buyers. Leasing connected to the purchase of yacht in a charter management is still subject to scrutiny of the charter management provider (operator) and of course the projections of the charter market in that region.

Most leasing companies only work with a handful of trusted and proven charter operators with a track record. The strong charter companies surviving this pandemic and the optimistic outlook of the arrival of the vaccine tells the leasing companies that the charter income projections for 2021/22 and onward are more reliable. The 2021/22 season looks more promising for the prospecting yacht buyer.

What can Yacht-Match do?

Yacht-Match will be able to provide secure leasing options for yachts delivered in 2020 and 21. With as little as 52% participation required from the boat owner. These charter management agreements and leasing arrangement with the local leasing banks in Europe reassures that management of the yacht will take off all the yearly ownership costs including the monthly leasing instalments.

Together with leasing banks, Yacht-Match has created a flexible and more secure way of financing the yacht. We do this by making sure that there are safety nets incorporated in the leasing agreements. Such as the possibility to extend the contracts, freeze agreements, and several options of first and last payment options for 5, 7, and 9 years leasing contracts.  

The Shipyards 

The shipyards have adjusted their production immediately to the restrictions of the pandemic and lowered their output. That’s why most shipyards are still fully booked and delivery times are extending. A few yachts are still available for purchase and delivery in 2021.. But as a yacht investor, your scope should be 2021/22 Caribbean Season or 2022 European season.

We expect that the more exotic sailing areas such as the Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand will be fully operational again. The Hongkong area will enjoy the benefit of the successful COVID-19 campaign in China and might bounce back earlier.  

If you consider buying a new yacht, you must count with a delivery time of nine to twelve months. Some vessels will be ready in time for the Caribbean season, but you should not postpone your decision much longer. Also for the European sailing areas delivery in the winter of 2021 is the best time to receive your yacht. Charter operators will have enough time to get your yacht ready for the 2022 season. 

Use the holidays to investigate the market based on your preferences. If you want help with sourcing the right ownership solution or charter holidayGet in contact with us, and we will help you convert your plans into reality! 

Final Thoughts

2020 is a year with challenges we didn’t know before. We are fortunate we overcame all obstacles on our tacking course through the year. I’m grateful that many clients stayed with us, valued our knowledge and services and happy that new clients found a safe harbour in the yacht ownership consultancy of Yacht-Match. 

Let’s take all precautions, keep distance, wear face masks, wash our hands, get ourselves tested even if we only have a cold and look after those who are less fortunate. We are confident that 2021 will see the end of the COVID-19 impact, and we can travel and enjoy living on board again. Take the opportunity to become more aware of decisions that may impact on your health and that of those around you. 

We look forward to assisting you on this journey, which we are navigating together! 

Happy holidays! 

Dirk and Viktor 

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