Private yacht charter holidays have seen an increase in demand since the pandemic started. Even though last year’s season was short, it saw yachts flat-out with back-to back charters. The reasons behind this increase in demand are obvious – spending time on a yacht is much safer than spending it in the company of hundreds of other guests in a luxury resort. But having said that, there were cancellations or bailouts just before contracts were signed – people were worried and not sure how to proceed. Some of the questions asked by many concerned on-board safety protocols, testing and cancellation policies.
Now, before I go into further detail, it is important to mention that the yachts I manage are all in the 20 – 40m range. This is a key factor, as it changes the dynamics and clientele, etc. significantly.
In the beginning, we had very little information about the virus. Is it contagious by touching surfaces, through linen and towels and how can we provide a secure environment onboard? In the months prior to being able to travel again, most management companies frantically started to put together protocols for the yachts, like special disinfection procedures. But devising these protocols for mega yachts is different for yachts with as little as 2 – 5 crew. In my personal opinion, each situation needs to be dealt with individually, rather than trying to put every yacht under the same umbrella. I think the most important matter in these times is that we all try to make everyone feel comfortable, not only the guests but also the crew! How can this be achieved? Mostly through common sense, I would say.
My personal experience last year was that most clients (and to the contrary of what we initially expected) were pretty laid back about the situation. All some clients asked was for the crew to be tested before the start of the charter. I do think that regular testing is, for the time being, the only way forward. Some owners required the crew and guests to get tested, some opted to keep antigen tests on board and others only accepted week-long charters, the situation was dealt with in many different ways.
One thing that has changed as a result of the pandemic is the cancellation terms of the MYBA contracts. Whereas before, neither clients nor owners could cancel the charter once signed, we have now started to sign Covid Addendums/Terms. This can be in the form of an Addendum to the contract or additional clauses within the contract. Some owners agree to a complete cancellation in the event of, say, a lockdown while others agree to a free change of dates. There is no rule and nothing is set in stone. As mentioned above, it is important to deal with each situation individually and to find a reasonable solution for everyone involved.
The next Med summer season is around the corner and owners are starting to ask questions, like: “What do you think? Is it going to be a good season?” I reply that, yes, I think it will – given that our clients can travel.
I am sure that this topic is subject to many different opinions but this is my personal view on the situation. I will carry on treating each yacht, client, owner, crew, and situation individually and will try to make everyone feel safe and comfortable.