The reaction to my last commentary on the potential, or in the opinions of some – lack thereof, of Norway as a charter destination, got me thinking. So I thought, rather than simply shooting the breeze, I’d take the opportunity while up there to crunch some numbers to assess whether the market is showing any signs of life.
As it transpires, there is a heartbeat. Thus far, in 2017, 15 superyachts have spent time cruising in Norwegian waters. These yachts had a cumulative LOA of 882m, equalling an average of 58.8m – around the length of that sweet-spot identified in the preceding piece. Between them, they averaged two charters or private quotas a yacht, with the an 80m motoryacht completing four.
To put that in a more dynamic context, this is six more vessels visiting than a year before, which is a YoY increase in traffic of 40 per cent. And if we go as far back as 2013, there are now 15 times more superyachts in Norwegian waters. For the non-mathematicians among you, that means there was only one yacht above 30m there in 2013.
Factor in that every port in the fjords is blessed with the perfect ambient mix of long piers (designed for the cruise market revolution of 20 years ago), deep water, and seclusion (for both boat and owner), and the case for making the trip is strengthened.
Yes, on the downside, the weather makes that which I’m used to in London feel balmy. And for those owners looking to bask in their own glow of conspicuous consumption, it ain't gonna happen. Furthermore, it’s a hell of a way for a boat to go for one journey.
But equally, there is a wealth of grade-one service infrastructure in the region and a gaping hole in an uncharted charter market waiting to be filled. Both of these offset the headache of the trip. And as one respected industry stakeholder commented, ‘there’s a whole world out there!’
I spent a pleasant evening at Hotel Ullsvanger, a fifth-generation owned hotel deep in fjord country. It is regularly visited by the Norwegian royal family, via their 80.25m royal yacht Norge. They, and their ancestors have been visiting as a summer retreat for decades, anchoring in the serenity of the fjords and coming ashore.
Their willingness to do so, highlights why parking stern-to along the 35m private pier is not as awkward as it may appear, and the soon-to-opened harbour club, and already-operative private helipad solve problems of remoteness.
I’m trying to avoid gushing superlatives for a market that is clearly peripheral. But perhaps that should be its appeal; it is far from the madding crowd, and considering how busy the Med is, the guy doing exactly the same thing just metres away.
As a closing point, and a subtle allusion to the business proposition, the mainstream tourism market in Norway is dominated by the three Asian peninsula powerhouses – China, Japan and Korea. Indeed, Chinese tourism in Norway has risen 71 per cent since the facile sanctions were dropped by the Chinese. Now human nature is intrinsic, and there is probably a reason northern European and Russian tourists don’t flock to Norway: why waste time and money on something that’s similar to where you’ve come from. However, there is clearly something luring this raft of tourism to the country, and perhaps it is this pool of UHNWIs that could be coaxed into looking to Norway too… Just a thought.