Australian Superyacht Charter Industry for Domestic High-End Travelers

10 March 2021

Maryanne Edwards, former CEO of AIMEX and Superyacht Australia and now a key consultant within the GMBA group recently attended the Superyacht Australia Soiree.  Maryanne spoke with several key industry players present at the soiree to get a feel for where the Australian charter industry is at and how important events like this are in the current environment.

The Australian superyacht sector is an important and growing sector that touches all aspects of the Australian economy. It has grown from a number of highly skilled individuals and organisations into a respected global supply chain. In late 2019 the Australian parliament passed legislation enabling foreign superyachts to charter in Australian waters. A report undertaken by Superyacht Australia in 2016 projected the revenue for the superyacht sector in 2021 if this legislation and other initiatives were actioned would reach $3.34 Billion.  Since the passing of this legislation and despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the industry appears well on its way to reach this target. There has been and continues to be significant investment in the industry particularly by the major refit yards which has contributed to driving increased revenue for the Australian economy, strengthening the industry and allowing businesses to flourish.

The charter sector is now becoming a key part of the industry with a report in 2019 stating there were approximately 61 unique vessels available for charter across five agents with vessel length averaging at 30 meters generating revenue of $16.5 million. Given current activity in this market one would expect this revenue to well exceed this figure for 2021.

In a world where most superyacht events have had to be cancelled, it was exciting for the Australian Industry to be able to participate in the event and network with both industry colleagues and key clients in such an iconic Sydney location. There were eight yachts at the soiree providing a good showcase of the industry.  A number of yachts were unavailable due to either being currently based in Queensland or being on charter.

Whilst the sun decided to have a day off and there was a little drizzle in the air from time to time, it certainly did not dampen the positive and exciting vibe that buzzed around Jones Bay Wharf on Saturday 27 February, for the Superyacht Australia Soiree.  Hats off to Superyacht Australia as it is no mean feat to organise events such as this with so many uncertainties surrounding closure of borders and very strict covid regulations regarding self-distancing, food service and event numbers.

One of the highlights and outcomes of COVID-19 has been the interest in chartering superyachts in Australia.  Superyachts are now seen as a very desirable alternative to overseas travel, and an exciting tourism product that offers the luxury, bespoke experience and style clients are seeking.

Karen Fitzgerald, General Manager Experiences, Tourism Australia, an expert in the experiences tourism sector made the following observations.

“The Soiree was a great opportunity for the industry, sponsors and potential clients to experience first-hand, a few of the fabulous yachts on offer for charter.  The quality, standard, style and design of the boats were outstanding.  Coupled with the friendly and welcoming crews, the ability to charter a yacht and explore our amazing coastline is understandably core to Australia’s premium offering.  At a time where isolation, getting off the beaten track and avoiding the crowds are more appealing than ever, it is no wonder that those Australians who would traditionally venture overseas for their annual holiday, would now invest in a superyacht experience.  They appreciate the exclusivity, the accessibility, and the flexibility to design their own itinerary and reward themselves accordingly.  Similarly, I see it for the corporate sector, a product launch or the private party host – smoozing your most valuable clients, family and friends on a yacht on Sydney harbour for a day or two would surely impress!  It certainly gave me a few ideas!

What I did notice was that whilst the lure of warmer temperatures and blue waters found in Far North Queensland remains very high, there was talk about other destinations including Tasmania and South Australia.   People were keen to chat about the diversity of onshore experiences on offer that would complement a cruising adventure in those locations, such as visiting a premium winery or playing a round of golf. “

It is becoming evident that superyacht chartering has adapted to the Australian client now offering all inclusive pricing and espousing the can-do attitude Australians love. Maryanne spoke with Jo Howard, MD of Ocean Alliance, one of Australia’s leading yacht agents who has been in the industry for 25 years and has owned Ocean Alliance for the last 10 years.  Jo is a member of both the NSW and Australia Superyacht Committees and worked closely with the charter regulations committee to help drive the regulation changes which now allow international vessels to charter in Australia.  This has been a huge boost for the entire Australian superyacht industry.

Jo Howard had this to say; “The Soiree represented an important event for the industry given the 2020 disruptions we have all faced. Encouraging a new audience is critical for the growth of the charter market.  I believe the pandemic has created an opportunity to accelerate the interest in superyacht charter as a luxury travel option.  We are working with a higher percentage of first-time charterers and also clients experienced with charters who are now looking to explore local Australian destinations given the inability to travel internationally.

We were excited to launch the luxury superyacht Perle Blue to the Australian market at the soiree, Being one of the largest yachts now available in Australia we have already received strong enquiry for the Queensland winter season.  Perle Blue is currently offering short intimate cruises on Sydney Harbour but her strength is extended charter experiences. She can accommodate 12 guests along with an impressive inventory of water sports equipment to entertain the most active families.  We have also established all-inclusive rates to simplify the experience and encourage new charter clients and agents to the industry. Inclusions will differ from yacht to yacht but as an example Perle pricing will include: Provision for cruising per day, use of the yachts tenders and water sports equipment, all meals and snacks for the charter period, non-alcoholic beverages, a provision for alcoholic beverages, satellite connectivity, berthing fee’s & GST. The only additional costs would be if the client wished to order high value wines/champagnes above the provision or activities such as helicopter flights or specific dive instructors. “

It was no surprise to any that Perle Blue attracted significant attention at the soiree, offering exquisite catering and an impressive bar service throughout the evening. An indication of the level of service and catering this vessel is bringing to the Australian market.

Maryanne Edwards GMBA also spoke with Barry Jenkins, Chair of Superyacht Australia and affectionately referred to by the industry as Mr Sanctuary Cove.  Barry is a highly respected industry champion who has been involved in the superyacht industry since it started in Australia, has a wealth of experience and knowledge within the Australian marine industry and made the following comments; “Superyacht Australia was determined to showcase the industry as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allowed.  Currently as with any event, meticulous planning, monitoring restrictions and having a Plan B is crucial. The Superyacht Australia team certainly pulled it off despite the issues they faced when superyachts could not confirm availability until the last minute as currently most superyachts are busy with day and overnight charters on Sydney Harbour and as an industry we understand this must come first.   Three hundred guests attended the Soiree over the period 2pm -8pm. A significant increase on last year’s attendees. The event style of allowing guests to board yachts, meet the captain and crew and be exposed to this ultimate in luxury experience certainly seduced several new to industry clients who were impressed by the opulence of a superyacht and what cruising on a superyacht could offer.”

When asked about the focus of Superyacht Australia moving forward Barry stated; “A key focus for Superyacht Australia now is continuing to drive growth in the sector and to do this we need access to international markets.  Now that the vaccine is being rolled out, we hope that being able to represent our industry on global platforms is not too far away.  We believe there is no substitute for that one-on-one experience and the networking and relationship building that goes with attending international events. Our prime purpose is promoting Australia as a cruising destination for the global superyacht fleet and of course all sectors of the industry benefit from this. Continued dialogue with both state and federal government continues to be a priority to ensure consistency in interpretation of regulations to make entering Australia a seamless and efficient experience. “

Another significant stakeholder in the industry who had a strong presence at the Soiree was Pantaenius, a global insurance company with a growing stake in the Australian market. The success of Pantaenius in the Australian market is certainly due not only to their product offering but to their professional and enthusiastic team spear headed by MD Jamie MacPhail.

Maryanne spoke with Jamie to understand how the insurance industry has been affected by COVID-19 and his view of the soiree.

Jamie said; “Since opening here in Australia our business has gone from strength to strength and we see being part of events like this critical to ensuring we stay in touch with our customers and continue to understand what the industry and our clients need. It’s always great and very important to meet with members within the industry and go home with some new insights and most of all right now it is exciting simply to be in such a great networking environment.  It certainly beats Zoom calls.

Events like the Soiree are paramount for growing the Australian charter market. There is great potential for this industry in Australia, we could really be at the forefront of the charter industry in the years to come and such events are affording this transition.

We have been lucky in that COVID-19 hasn’t affected the yacht insurance industry in the same way it has other industries. The demand for boats has increased because of the inability to travel so for each client we’ve lost we seem to be picking up a new one. The main changes to our business structure can be seen in advertising and sales. We have become a lot more active with our online presence as boat shows, regattas and so forth have been cancelled. Through Covid, as with many businesses, we realised how much we rely on the face-to-face communication at events so we were forced to find a way around this. “

To get a rounded view of the event Maryanne also spoke with a couple of prospective charterers who attended the soiree about their thoughts of the event. The overall response was, “It is great to be able to see a number of superyachts in one location. Having someone experienced in the industry making appointments and personally introducing you to the captains helped ensure a premium experience. The captains were extremely welcoming, open and engaging. Given expectations of a luxury experience the hospitality offered on the superyachts on display seemed inconsistent. Events like this are important as they are a barometer to gauge how you would be treated on board and demystify the experience. For those who feel chartering a superyacht is inaccessible events such as this are important and it would be great to see more of them”.

In summary it is evident stakeholders and prospective clients were excited and pleased with the event.  The industry is certainly coming of age with superyacht chartering being listed as one of the most luxurious tourism experiences.  Australians are now chartering superyachts and cruising in Australia.  It is also clear once international borders open Australia is going to be a sought after destination and lets face it whatever experience clients are looking for  “Australia has it all”

For further information
Maryanne Edwards
Email: medwards@gmba.blue
Mobile: +61 0412916036
Website: www.gmba.blue

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