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When a family or a group of friends charter a yacht, their holidays are directly linked to the vessel and its crew. If they make the wrong choice, what looked like a good idea on a well-designed marketing brochure can turn into a nightmare. When it comes to luxury yachts, 80 per cent of charterers will book their holiday via a broker, the key component in the upcoming Thailand Charter Week. The role of the yacht charter broker is essential to source, select and describe the yacht to the end user, the charterer.
Brokers, though, have limited time, so tend to work with a selected number of trustworthy partners in established destinations they know well. It’s their reputation – and somebody’s dream holiday – on the line, so they’re generally reluctant to take risks.
For example, in Thailand, luxury charter yachts can range from 10m-150m in length and very greatly in terms of quality. As such, it can be difficult for new destinations and new yachts to get on the radar of established brokers.
This is one of the prime reasons for a well organised business-to-business (B2B) yacht charter week in any particular region, exemplified by the likes of the Antigua Yacht Show in the Caribbean and the MYBA Charter Show in the Mediterranean.
So, what makes a successful B2B charter event and why has the Thai Yachting Business Association created the first Thailand Charter Week?
Firstly, contrary to a yacht show, the event is not open to the public and focuses only on developing charter business between those working in the industry. The event’s main component are professionally organised yacht inspections, and the formula used by tourism authorities in Asia is ‘buyers meet sellers’.
The buyers include charter brokers, luxury travel agents and management companies, while sellers include yacht owners, central agents and management companies. Additional exhibitors include those providing marine services for yachts in general and charter yachts in particular.
Buyers visit the yachts to update their product inventory, and are focused on specifications and quality. Their criteria when looking at the yacht include the crew, hospitality utilities, toys and leisure equipment, the central agent or management team, value for money and potential destinations.
The seller, or the yacht itself, must have a crew or team ready to answer any question at the charter event – it’s no place for nice escort girls on the aft platform. The visiting broker should be guided around the boat by a qualified crew member who speaks the language of the broker, with English as the default language.
The crew must be able to represent the boat and able to answer to all types of questions, from the technical specs to the hospitality details. I can’t stress enough that highly qualified crew is paramount. The central agent will give the broker all commercial documents and follow up after the event.
A typical yacht inspection can last over one hour per boat and cannot be performed effectively with non-professional visitors getting in the way or diluting the experience of the buyer. Each management company wants to show the boat to the maximum number of brokers during the course of the event, while the brokers want to see, in depth, the most boats possible.
Qualified and welcoming crew can make or break a charter experience, especially on luxury yachts. The first question any broker should ask while inspecting a boat is, who are the crew? They should spend time talking to the crew, who should be friendly but professional.
On larger yachts, the chef can be a unique selling point. A good charter event will organise yacht parties, cocktails and chef competitions to let buyers test the capacity of the crew and boat to host small-scale or large-scale events.
The quality of service, food, drinks and amenities are assessed. Such events are best when they’re invitation only, for a select number of carefully chosen guests who will benefit from and add to the experience. In a typical charter event, three nights are often reserved for parties on yachts – and not all yachts take up the challenge!
Another component of any such B2B charter event is the ability for sellers to show the local cruising grounds, so buyers can get a good idea of where and how the boat can be used. Buyers always value the possibility to see the cruising grounds for themselves and for an event in Thailand, a far-away destination for those coming from Europe or the US, it’s a must.
Many may even be on their first trip to Thailand, so it’s essential they’re able to discover Phang Nga Bay and other cruising grounds reached from Phuket, and adjudge what they believe to be pros and cons.
The other key feature of being on a yacht for three days or so is that the buyer can also further assess the crew – and see if their initial impressions were correct.
In conclusion, a B2B charter event is working time for all participants, buyers and sellers alike. There’s no time for party crashers and family-style boat viewings.
And it’s a two-way street. The buyers (charter brokers) will only come if they have good boats and cruising grounds to view, while the sellers will only show their yachts if they have credible, active buyers coming on board.
Such an event is the best way for those in the charter business to meet and talk on location, and to view and test products and service providers, in order to feel confident enough to recommend a yacht and its potential destinations.
VINCENT TABUTEAU is CEO of Asia Marine, which he founded in 1989 and offers a wide variety of services including charter, brokerage, management and new sales (Bali, Numarine, Galeon, Wellcraft, Hanse). Tabuteau is also a Board Member of the Thai Yachting Business Association, which is the owner and organiser of the Thailand Charter Week: [email protected] / www.asia-marine.net
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 49. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/