In recent years, one of the superyacht industry’s most prominent topics has been the development of a premium global service network, and how such a thing would open up a multitude of opportunities for yachting’s businesses and clients. The focus on this topic has been driven by a chicken and egg-style scenario between the growing demand on the part of superyacht owners and guests to visit new and interesting locations, and the hesitancy on the part of most to travel to these locations without the guarantee that the levels of service available therein will be of a sufficiently high standard. However, might the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic help hasten the development of global service levels.
When discussions around escaping the typical superyacht milk run between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean arise, they are more often than not punctuated by the notion that superyachts are now able to travel to the world’s most extreme locations. Consider, for example, the disproportionately large number of times that the Arctic is referred to as a bone fide superyacht destination. It is true that more superyachts than ever before are visiting the arctic and that more projects than ever before are ice-classed and sufficiently self-sustained to visit the arctic and various other remote locations. However, between the milk run and the arctic, or indeed other extreme locations, there are a whole host of destinations that get a disproportionately low percentage of the available airtime.
Throughout the pandemic nations around the world reacted with varying speeds and with their own sets of domestic and international regulations and protocols. However, for most people 2020 has been characterised by lockdowns and geographical limitations. For the superyacht industry, these limitations have been most keenly felt during a severely diminished summer cruising season in the Mediterranean, which has been amplified by the inability to welcome owners and guests from the US and various other nations. That being said, the sales market has been proven to be amazingly resilient and owners and guests alike have proven time and time again that the desire to superyacht remains incredibly strong. However, without the typical cruising grounds open and various travel limitations still in place, individuals have been forced to either travel domestically or explore destinations that may not have been top of their wish lists.
Speaking with SuperyachtNews recently Jonathan Beckett, CEO of Burgess, and Andrew Winch, founder and creative director of Winch Design, both picked up on individual cases where superyachts have been used in the summer of 2020 in ways that they otherwise may not have been. Winch, speaking about Excellence, which is incidentally for charter with Burgess, and Beckett, speaking about Fair Lady, espoused the success of two vessels that spent 2020 on the US east coast and in Scotland respectively, the first being a private owners voyage and the second being a series of successful charters.
There is no doubt that in the short term the net impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the superyacht industry will be negative. However, over the course of this year, clients have been forced to think differently about how they experience luxury. For some, this has meant exploring locations that they may otherwise have overlooked. The east coast of the United States is a primary example. For most US clients, and indeed most superyacht clients generally, the allure of the Mediterranean and Caribbean are such that they rarely have to consider exploring elsewhere. But, in the case of Excellence, for lack of the owner being able to travel to Europe, the vessel has instead been used to explore the many and varied locations along the US’ east coast.
There will undoubtedly be many examples globally where owners and guests have been somewhat forced into experiencing new locations (even if they are their home nations) in order to benefit from the superyacht experience. While the impact may be minimal initially, it is widely accepted that the strongest form of marketing in the superyacht industry is word of mouth. As various owners and guests have explored new locations in 2020, it stands to reason that the positive experiences will percolate naturally into the wider superyacht market, opening up a wealth of new opportunities and experiences for superyacht clients and the businesses that service them. While in 2020 it may feel like the world has got smaller, the experiences that many have enjoyed this year may just make the superyacht world feel a little bit bigger once the dust has settled.
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