Vacation clubs are nothing new, but an Australia-based company believes applying the concept to the yacht market – including megayachts – can bring a new aspect to the cruising lifestyle. BVC International touts itself as the first global online boat-exchange club, with available craft ranging from runabouts to 300-footers. Members can cruise aboard yachts similar in size to their own boats.
The company operates the same way as traditional vacation clubs do. First, members select dates that their yacht can be used by other members, plus the destinations where she’ll be available. When a fellow member selects her, BVC International notifies the owner to double-check that the dates are still open and, if so, book the boat. A confirmation e-mail goes out, and it is then up to the person who booked the yacht to make travel plans and contact the owner to arrange getting onboard. Each day the yacht goes out translates to a day of credit that the owner earns. Once he or she accumulates credits, he or she can then book a similar-size yacht in the program. Unlike some vacation clubs, however, BVC International members “are not tied down to exchanging in one particular geographical area,” says Alan Gulliver, who runs BVC International’s European division.
Gulliver readily admits that there are only a handful of member yachts over 80 feet, which he attributes to the newness of the program. In addition, he says, “we expect the membership to be roughly proportional to boat-production output, and hence there will be fewer boats on the larger categories.” Regardless, he and the BVC International team believe megayacht owners might still be attracted to the program, since it will permit them “to boat in different waters without the costs of getting their own boat there.” BVC International also points out there are lower overall costs compared to chartering.
Megayacht membership is divided into two categories: 80 to 99 feet, costing $3,500 in Australian dollars (about US$3,200) for one year; and 100 to 150 feet, costing $4,500 in Australian dollars (about US$4,116). (No categories exist yet for superyachts in excess of 150 feet.) Each membership tier also involves a booking fee, charged to the person reserving the yacht – not the owners. The booking fees are AUD$700 (US$640) for 80- to 99-footers and AUD$900 (US$823) for 100- to 150-footers. Three- and five-year memberships are available as well, with discounts.
There’s one more cost to enroll your yacht: an insurance excess bond calculated according to LOA. It’s held by an Australian bank, used in case of damage or other problems during the yacht’s participation in the program. It’s refunded at the end of your membership if not used.
BVC International says it conducts extensive background checks on applicants and will only feature licensed, insured yachts and owners. All members are required to return boats in the same condition they boarded them, including refueling and replacing food and other consumables.
While the overall concepts may appeal to owners of production cruising boats, it remains to be seen whether more megayacht owners will sign up. If they’ve ever made their yachts available for charter or participated in fractional ownership plans, they’re accustomed to program managers handling all contractual issues. By contrast, Gulliver explains that BVC International “is purely tailored to administer and facilitate exchanges between boat owners. It is expected that owners will use their normal third parties regarding the logistics of the exchange, and also with the larger boats, to come to agreements regarding crew.” Understandably, BVC International wants to keep costs low, avoid conflicts regarding chartering in some regions, and avoid legal liabilities.