In a booming luxury market, small boat cruises and private yacht charters clearly stand out.
Luxury travel is remarkably resilient, rebounding earlier and faster than other travel sectors following crises like the Covid pandemic. How resilient? This summer, Virtuoso, the consortium of luxury travel advisors, announced that 2023 sales trailed 47% ahead of 2019 sales, itself a record year.
Two high-end vacation experiences that are seeing remarkable growth in this hot market are private yacht charters and luxury cruises on small ships.
Just ask those who sell them. Eric Goldring of Goldring Travel, a luxury specialist in Truckee, Calif., says he finds “a lot of interest” in small luxury cruises.
For ultra-elite clients of Fischer Travel, a members-only agency in New York, private yacht charters are the preferred style of cruising, and the agency is seeing “a huge increase” in yacht vacations among clients everywhere. age groups, says Vice President Dee Branciforte.
Tara Shaw, owner of Resfeber Travels in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said that after sending two groups on private yacht charters to Croatia with Via Tours Croatia this year, she sees an opportunity to increase yacht vacation sales. towards its mainly high-level luxury. customer base.
“Especially post Covid, my clients are looking for something different and unique for this bucket list vacation. Seeing Croatia by yacht and taking care of everything is an amazing experience.” Shaw has already booked more private yacht charters for next year.
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The global yacht charter market, including crewed and bareboat charters, is expected to grow from $6.83 billion in 2020 to $10.8 billion in 2027, according to research firm Fortune Business Insights. The company foresees “substantial growth” for the crewed yacht charter sector in particular, citing “the growing demand for superyachts and the growing involvement of cruise lines and their hybrid business models”.
A factor that is boosting the appeal of private yacht charters for some high-end travelers is that yachts are getting bigger and more lavish, with charter specialists like Via Tours Croatia upgrading and expanding their fleets to satisfy the desire what President Zvonimir Androić calls “a real yachting experience.” For example, many of their mid-range 18-cabin mini-cruisers have been upgraded to luxury superyachts with 11-15 fully-equipped cabins, high-end amenities and personalized service.
There is also product growth in the small vessel sector, including the highly anticipated and ultra-luxury Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which is now set to debut in October.
A higher than usual share of new expedition-style cruise ships is also in the pipeline, with 14 new expedition ships on order through 2028. Amenities. Some even provide submarines for underwater explorations.
These days, many small ship and yacht operators are focusing on improving sustainability, an increasingly important selling point. Ponant, for example, launched the LNG-powered electric hybrid Commandant-Charcot in 2021 and is working on the development of a fully carbon-neutral ship that can carry 100 to 200 passengers.
Another sustainable option: renting a sailboat or booking a vacation on a small wind-powered boat, such as those offered by Windstar.
After putting their travel plans on hold for nearly two years, today’s travelers are keenly focused on fulfilling their vacation desires. Increasingly, these desires are articulated around culturally enriching itineraries.
Travelers want intimate access to less-visited destinations, immersive personalized experiences like curated wine tastings and cooking classes, as well as outdoor activities, great food and wine, and, of course, a personalized service.
Itineraries are essential for customers booking high-end cruises on small ships, Goldring says. “It’s the service, the cuisine and the routes.
“Some places are best explored by land and sea,” says Tauck CEO Dan Mahar. He notes that smaller ships can enter smaller ports, change itineraries en route, and offer intimate shore excursions, bringing guests closer “to people, to cultures, to traditions.”
According to Androić, Via Tours Croatia offers a concierge-like approach where each charter can have a completely personalized experience, and each cabin/person can also choose their own experiences in each location.
Custom amenities on Agape Rose Superyacht (12 cabins)
Private Yacht Charter: All This and More
These same attractive features – flexible itineraries, access to remote ports and exclusive shore excursions – are amplified on private yacht charters, which offer even greater itinerary flexibility and access to even more isolated ports of call. . Yacht charters also offer the ultimate in privacy, exclusivity and personalized service, non-negotiable features for some high-end clients.
Yacht charter customers also appreciate the lack of regimentation, says Elizabeth Frels, product manager for luxury operator Ker & Downey. “There’s this feeling of ‘your yacht, your choice'”, “Do you want to party on your yacht? Dine under the stars? Do you want to play in the water, relax in the jacuzzi or explore outside the beaten track ? “
“Our customers really appreciate the fact that you don’t have to plan everything. They can navigate at their own pace, and the skippers know these secret coves, these really special places that the guide does not tell you about. And you don’t have to go with a group of 20 people for the same experience,” says Frels.
European specialist Patt Potter of Travel Leaders in Maple Grove, Minnesota has sold her first private yacht charter to clients wishing to travel with a group of 20 family and friends to Croatia this summer to celebrate a milestone birthday and anniversary. She is happy to have done it.
“My clients were delighted with their trip and their guests all had a great time. They were able to choose their own route and see and do unique things along the way. The attentiveness of the staff was wonderful.
“I would definitely recommend a yacht charter again to luxury clients looking for a very personalized experience,” says Potter.
The Mediterranean is extremely popular for private yacht charters, led by destinations including Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Italy and Spain. The Caribbean is also a long-time favourite.
Now, other pleasure destinations are emerging. At Fischer Travel, Branciforte reports “an intriguing number of requests” for private yacht charters to destinations associated with expedition cruises, including Antarctica, the Arctic and Greenland.
Pandemic factors: health security, time spent with loved ones
Amid lingering pandemic concerns, small boat cruises and private yacht charters are addressing travelers’ need for a sense of health security, in part by avoiding crowded destinations.
On private yacht charters, which drop anchor in even more distant ports, guests are even more assured of a crowd-free experience. Like villa rentals, private yachts also reduce health risks by reducing exposure to people outside of one’s travel party.
Yacht charters and small boat cruises are also satisfying the pandemic-fueled desire to spend quality time with loved ones. Both types of products are ideal for multi-generational family groups. Yacht charters are particularly appealing to couples celebrating milestone anniversaries, families traveling with older children, groups of friends and business clients.
Whether to book a private yacht charter or a scheduled cruise on a small boat depends in part on the client’s goals. Some customers do both. “I have a client who chartered the biggest of the yachts, but when he hosts a group of girlfriends or their employees, he takes them on a luxury cruise because there are more social outlets,” says Branciforte.
Repeat rates for private yacht charters and luxury cruises on small ships are very high. Tauck reports that small boat cruises are his best-selling and most-repeated product.
Fischer Travel’s repeat yacht charter customers year after year, says Branciforte. “It’s a very special, fabulous and exclusive way to travel. Once people experience a yacht charter, they really get hooked.