Greek Economic Crisis: Impact on Charter Yachts?

ancient ruins of Delphi

PHOTO: thephotoholic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The last few days of April saw the 9th edition of the Poros charter yacht show, an industry-only event. Brokers and media alike inspected the latest crewed yachts that will spend the summer in the Greek islands. Missy Johnston, owner of Northrop & Johnson Yacht Charters, reports that of the 78 boats on display, 28 were new to the crewed market, and eight of the 28 were new launches. She contacted me not just to share that bit of good news, but to convey how pleased she is with the quality of both the yachts and crew.

I had to wonder, however, whether the implications of that good news would be tempered when considered against the severe economic crisis in Greece. Even among American television stations that don’t give much coverage to international issues, there have been reports of the European Union’s bailout plan, plus scenes of demonstrations and riots in reaction to government cuts. I asked Johnston a few questions about the potential impact on crewed charter yachts cruising Greek waters this summer:

Q: Have any charter guests expressed concern about booking Greek charter yachts because of the severe economic crisis that country is facing?

A: Yes they have; however, the bigger concern has been from brokers, concerned about client fund escrow accounts in Greek banks that are holding charter funds. One Greek central agency company has the client funds account for charter funds in Switzerland, and I spoke with another company about doing the same, which they are looking into.

Q: Are bookings for Greece higher or lower so far compared to last year?

A: I don’t know if they are lower than last year, but they are still down, and this is one location in the Med where pricing is still flexible. There is not as much pricing flexibility as in other areas of the Med last year; however, in Greece the flexibility is still there, and discounts are offered.

Q: Is there any concern among brokers over the Greek economy? For example, have any of the usual cruising grounds suffered marina closings or losses of other businesses?

A: I have not seen this per se. The general feedback that I have been receiving is that the wealthy are still fine. The imbalance has been in the amount of taxes requested from all, including the wealthy versus the cost of government, i.e. the taxes are not at a high enough level for the cost of government. I did notice in Athens that some of the public services seem to have been cut back. There are a lot of bushes and weeds growing up through sidewalks and parking lots and other areas normally kept more manicured. Also there were more full trash dumpsters around. I think the islands are concerned, but I have not seen any specific closings, etc. Apparently Cabotage laws for cruise ships have been removed so that foreign-flag cruise ships can pick up and drop off in Greek waters, so that large cruise ships are not cruising through the islands in several days, but might stay longer, calling at more Greek islands so that more is spent, even if it’s just T-shirts. Some feel that the drop of the Cabotage laws included the yachts as well, or if not, will soon include yachts in order to increase tourism dollars to the Greek islands.

Dive Service at Your Service

Dive Butler International photo credit Nick Fenley

Plenty of both private and charter yachts feature dive compressors and gear onboard. This, of course, requires that the crew be trained in proper operation and procedures. The good news is that several captains and crewmembers can lay claim to being PADI certified.

But what about owners and charter guests who want to try their hand at diving and don’t have the equipment or properly trained masters onboard? In some cases, rendezvous diving can be arranged – meaning a third-party boat with trained staff and equipment meets the yacht and takes care of everyone.

Dive Butler International takes that concept to a new level. It offers private scuba instruction aboard a yacht anywhere in the world – literally. How? By flying in its dive instructors and gear.

Whether your yacht will be in traditional cruising grounds like the Caribbean or the Med, even as far as the Maldives, Dive Butler International can and will send someone to work with you. The company is the brainchild of Alexis Vincent, a PADI Master Instructor who has spent well more than a decade in the recreational-diving industry. He’s been working with resorts and tour operators for much of that time, and he realized there was an untapped niche for one-on-one instruction wherever and whenever people wanted it.

Vincent and more than two dozen PADI instructors, most of whom are multi-lingual, can work with adults and kids alike to teach everything from basic breathing techniques to important safety skills. They’ll research and map out a dive trip based on everyone’s abilities and what type of marine life you hope to see. Dive Butler International can also, if you wish, arrange photo and video mementos of your dive. The team will also, on request, provide tips on gear to buy if you want to outfit your yacht for the future.

Since Dive Butler International customizes packages according to clients’ needs, pricing can vary. Check the price list on its Web site (see “our services”) to get a sense of what your options are, then call or e-mail the team to learn about how else your experience can be tailored.

PHOTO: NICK FENLEY

Encouraging Signs for Yacht Charter

Genoa charter show docks

Today is the last day of the 21st edition of the Genoa charter show, an industry-only event that draws the top charter brokers and charter journalists from around the world. Held at Marina Molo Vecchio, it showcased 65 yachts, a sell-out. Although it also attracted about 100 fewer brokers than last year, perhaps due to the economy, more important, it drew praise from several attendees, one of whom was Missy Johnston, owner of Northrop and Johnson Yacht Charters. Johnston agreed to serve as Megayacht News’ eyes and ears during the show, and what she has to say about the coming summer season is encouraging. Here’s her report:

The number of yachts that are actually in the show is based on the number that can fit at the available dockage. Again, this year, several owners were disappointed, as a few yachts were left on the waiting list. I think in these economic times, everyone is pleased to see that owners are still interested in having their yachts offered for charter, and that this show is as large as ever, and once again over-subscribed.

Natori aft deck

This year the predominant vessel types showing by a large margin are motoryachts. The largest two motoryachts, at a little over 70 meters, are Boadicea and Haida G. There are also a number of new yachts with new crew at this show, which is nice to see and encouraging for the future of yacht charter. (Editor’s note: See Johnston’s photos of Natori, above, and Galaxy, below.) A lot of destination talk for the summer at the show is centering around the Eastern Mediterranean, as it seems that more owners are interested in having their yachts located in Croatia, Greece, and Turkey this coming summer. Of course, as every broker knows, if a non-Greek-flagged yacht charters in any part of Greece, the pickup or drop-off port must be outside of Greece.

Every broker in attendance feels that the number of inquiries from interested yacht charter clients are increasing and that there should be a good yacht charter summer in the Mediterranean this year; perhaps off to a slower start than last year, but everyone is optimistic given the present increase in inquiries and charter bookings. There are still some great dates available, though, in July and August on some great charter yachts.

Galaxy toys

And as always, the Show Management of Pesto Marine and the volunteer members of the Mediterranean Yacht Broker Association that put this show together, have done an excellent job. The show is well organized, with a great selection of yachts open for viewing for charter for this upcoming summer, and many support industries in attendance have booth representation and information available to discuss all other aspects necessary to put together a great yacht charter.

To learn more, check out the Northrop and Johnson Yacht Charters blog.