One thing that has become abundantly clear in recent years is that the superyacht market is short of feeder markets and lacking a set of viable options for the yachting enthusiast. In other words, the traditional charter and ownership models do not go far enough in satisfying the myriad desires of various wealthy demographics. The advent of fractional ownership models, membership clubs, day charters and other such ventures are trying to bridge this gap and fill the various holes. Another business that promises to aid in this is The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (RCYC). SuperyachtNews sat down with Doug Prothero, CEO of RCYC, to discuss the new enterprise.
“We are finding that a lot of individuals that are in between superyachts, or exiting the market, are taking interest in RCYC,” starts Prothero. “Additionally, when looking at the superyacht charter market, there is a regulatory barrier of 36 passengers, and there just isn’t anything on the market above that. So, if you have a large family or party that wants to do a charter, there are few other luxury options.” RCYC vessels will be available to charter for large groups.
“On the guest side, we are getting customers that just wouldn’t otherwise take a cruise. They are interested in yachting and it is the yachting design and feel that appeals to them. Two out of three bookings have never been on a cruise and are attracted because of the brand and because it is a yacht, not a cruise,” continues Prothero.
Prothero explains that, in order to move away from any comparisons with the cruise market, and to encourage customers who have little maritime experience, RCYC has avoided using cruise jargon in favour of adopting the language that has historically proved so effective for Marriot Luxury’s hotels and resorts.
“When we were raising money to begin this venture, our presentation was only three slides. The first slide showed images of the four most recent luxury cruise ships, the second showed our yacht concept and the third slide had the Ritz-Carlton logo,” Prothero explains. “We could go into any private equity house – we went to a number before we found Oaktree [which became the investor] – and speak to ladies and gentlemen who were in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who had never been on a cruise, but were exactly the customers we were looking for. They could immediately identify with what we were putting together.”
According to Prothero, a great deal of the design process was focussed on creating social spaces that are suitable for the various party sizes that are likely to be on board. “It’s a big space,” he says, “but our public spaces are designed to feel like the corners of yachts, rather than the huge public spaces associated with cruise ships.”
As with the time on board the vessel, RCYC also has a responsibility to ensure that when guests go ashore, the experiences that they are there to enjoy are not diminished by the sheer number of people that are disembarking. Indeed, travelling to remote or quaint destinations can easily be overshadowed or ruined by volumes of people.
“We are going to remote places with 300 guests,” continues Prothero. “We have to work incredibly hard to make sure that people don’t feel like we are overwhelming the destination and that the guests still receive a backdoor tour, as you would expect if you were on board a superyacht. It’s also about being honest about what is achievable in any given destination. In some places we can get black cars and in others an old yellow school bus may be the only transport available. But, that is why people visit remote destinations, to get the genuine experience. The key is to not overpromise on something you can’t deliver.”
For RCYC, the emphasis of the project is on customer experience. Where the superyacht market is on occasion lacking is in its ability to guarantee a certain quality of experience for customers, whether that relates to the process of arranging a charter, or the quality of the crewing and service on board the vessel itself. “From the moment they call us, visit the website or otherwise, where we have the first interface, to the moment they leave the vessel, people will understand that we have taken the Ritz-Carlton standard to sea,” concludes Prothero.
At 190m, the RCYC vessel will sleep 298 guests across 149 suites and be catered for by 246 officers and crew. The first vessel is due for delivery in 2019.
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