After a four-year term as MYBA president, Fiona Maureso, charter director at Northrop & Johnson, was recently replaced at the top of the association as MYBA announced its new board for the next two years.
“It was an absolute pleasure serving for MYBA,” compliments Maureso, in an exclusive conversation with SuperyachtNews aboard M/Y Maraya on the first day of the MYBA Charter Show in Barcelona. “And the show looks fantastic today – there are some great yachts on display and lots of brokers, so it’s a credit to the new management and marina ownership.”
On the subject of the latest charter market trends, Maureso explains that a number of charter brokers are noticing what she describes as “weird” behaviour on the part of guests so far in 2018. “We’ve got a lot of advanced bookings in the diary, but trying to get them over the line has really not been easy, and we can’t understand why. It’s not because of taxes or political situations – it’s just proving to be very tricky.”
In terms of the locations of the charters, Maureso says that Greece was “on a real roll” last year because people were avoiding Turkey due to the political instability. However, since Greece closed its doors to non-EU flagged charter yachts recently, bookings in Turkey have picked back up again.
“South of France has dropped away a lot because it’s very confused,” Maureso continues. “I was on La Tania this morning and they were actively avoiding France because of the French Social Security situation. It’s the first yacht I’ve come across personally that is actually running away from France.” Maureso hasn’t seen owners withdrawing their yachts from the charter market because of this, however. Instead, owners are just avoiding France altogether and taking their yachts elsewhere.
One late trend Maureso has noticed is that charterers are really not bothered by high-tax jurisdictions if they can have a hassle-free holiday on board. “In Spain, you pay 21 per cent tax, you pay for a charter licence and you pay full-rate fuel, and there is no tax-free supply for yachts, but you get to do whatever you want," she explains. "And if they have to pay for it, they will.”
She added: “Croatia has brought in a new charter license that is 13 per cent VAT across the board, with no reduced rate, but people are willing to pay for it. Us brokers are saying, ‘Oh that VAT is going to be a nightmare’, but the truth is the clients are willing to pay for it to not have the hassles.”
Maureso says that the Croatian market was “phenomenal” last year after it introduced a charter licence for non-Croatian-flagged yachts and VAT on charter fees on time spent in Croatian waters. However, she also believes that Montenegro’s charter market might soon be wilting as a result, because charterers used to embark in Montenegro in order to charter in Croatia, but now they don’t have to.
Unfortunately, Maureso doesn’t believe the yachting industry is getting any closer to seeing a unilateral regulation of taxation between European countries. “Until yachting is treated uniquely and with its own identity, it will continue to be shoe-horned by other maritime sectors. For example, the French Social Security situation was triggered by ferries and the situation in Greece was triggered by Turkish gullets. We need a unique identity and legislation that is yacht friendly and not always being adapted or not adapted,” Maureso concludes.
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