A year after Yachting Partners International (YPI) was acquired by Mercantile & Maritime Investments (MMI), SuperyachtNews speaks with Abdullah Nahar, director of YPI, to discover how the full-service yachting house evolved since changing hands and it has continued to implement positive changes, even in the wake of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Once MMI acquired the business we immediately prioritised trying to find ways to improve the business and so we began investing in its growth. Yachting is a people business and we quickly added new talent to our teams. We began with the restructuring and revamping our yacht management department. We’ve expanded the senior management team and made over a dozen hires across various departments including partners, heads of departments, brokers and other key members of staff. We have already seen a significant culture shift and we had extremely high hopes for 2020, but of course, the pandemic struck.”
Like many businesses globally, YPI’s focus shifted as the negative impact of the pandemic became clearer and various restrictions & protocols were put in place. According to Nahar, YPI’s focus shifted to team morale, digital strategy and client support, while continuing to invest directly in the business.
Abdullah Nahar, director of YPI
“We have looked into various new and improved technologies, especially where it concerns building new software for the yacht management business. If anything, the pandemic as further secured the importance of technology for businesses moving forward with greater connectivity and speeds required. We quickly decided to embrace more creative ways of engaging with our partners, clients and each other,” continues Nahar.
As with many full-service yachting houses, it was the charter market that was most impacted at YPI as the Mediterranean charter season was all but written off before it had even begun. However, that being said, it came as a pleasant surprise to many that there was still Mediterranean activity, albeit limited, in 2020 as many owners and guests saw superyachts as safe-havens, especially when countries like Croatia and Greece began opening up to charter guests from certain nations. Indeed, the various travel options born out of necessity may help bolster diversity and flexibility within the superyacht market itself.
“When clients were unable to travel to their preferred destinations, we had to explore new areas and options,” explains Nahar. “Croatia was one of the first markets to open up and we have had incredibly positive feedback from those guests that chartered in these less frequented areas.
“On the sales front, however, this year has been relatively positive, with the exception of the 2-3 months of confinement due to the pandemic. We’ve seen an increased interest in what is now a buyers’ market leading to a surge in enquiries and a number of solid leads. Not only has the performance been strong, but we have also seen a number of new clients who are entirely new to yachting making enquiries. Furthermore, we have seen an average drop in sales prices of 15-20 per cent across the board and this may inspire and a number of new parties to entertain the thought of buying a superyacht.”
However, having only acquired YPI within the year, there was a particular onus on YPI’s management to not only mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 but to start implementing positive changes aimed at future business growth. For Nahar, the three areas of particular focus are business-to-business partnerships, collaboration and sustainability.
“YPI was established 48 years ago and its USP has always been its ethos of collaboration and partnerships whether this is with other brokerage houses and superyacht industry businesses of partners from beyond this market,” says Nahar. “We have various partnerships with different entities and sectors, but in 2020 we announced our partnership with Yacht Club de Monaco in order to promote the local community, the principality and the yachting industry, as well as developing a new partnership with Vistajet that allows us to bring new dynamic services to our client pool.”
Further to maintaining and developing partnerships, YPI has created various new departments within its business, such as the ‘Client experience department’ that was announced in September, who’s brief is to amplify the luxury lifestyle that YPI fosters onshore and at sea, looking at the lives and experiences of both the clients and crew with the introduction of new support systems and services beyond the traditional.
“Since joining, I have been incredibly focussed on sustainability. We have created a sustainability initiative and appointed internal champions within each department to focus on three core aspects. Firstly, our use of carbon and how we can neutralise and offset it by offering bundle packages to our clients and existing owners. Secondly, the reduction of single-use plastics, both within the business and on board the vessels. Thirdly, a focus on mindfulness and well being both within the business and on board the yachts. This, however, is only the start of our sustainability initiative and we have focussed on these three elements initially to simplify the problem and make our targets achievable. We are looking forward to continuing this work moving forward and taking the next steps towards a more sustainable business.”
There can be absolutely no doubt that for some business the COVID-19 pandemic will have caused unassailable damage, whereas for other it has created an unprecedented opportunity to take stock and focus resources on new projects when they otherwise would not have had the ability to do so. Seemingly, throughout 2020, YPI has fallen into the latter category as it has successfully focussed much of its efforts on implementing changes that will stand to support the business in its medium and long-term future.
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