Posted: 28th February 2018 | Written by: Rebecca Whitlocke
Bespoke Yacht Charter has impacted the yacht charter market in Cannes, changing the way brands interact with clients at events. We caught up with Rachel Coles, Charter Broker from Bespoke Yacht Charter, to delve deep into how they've ascended to the niche position for Cannes event yacht charters.
OnboardOnline: Bespoke Yacht Charter has successfully booked over 40 Cannes Lions yacht charters. Can you explain the history of how you started and why you have many repeat clients for Cannes event charters?
Rachel Coles: I developed a good understanding of how Cannes events work first hand, working as crew at the Film Festival and MIPIM along with the Monaco F1 Grand Prix on various yachts from 20 m to 50 m. This hands-on experience gave me the knowledge to really understand what happens on board, how to manage client expectations and solve problems.
Being office based since 2006, I have developed great relationships with Captains; as I understand the parameters and we can really work together to offer the best client experience. I also have a good relationship with the port, having begun my career literally living in Cannes port!
This cohesion between broker, Captain and an understanding of how the port works gives me valuable knowledge to guide clients through the maze of organising a Cannes event yacht charter with total confidence.
We are in Cannes for the entire week of Cannes Lions and meet with all our Cannes Lions yacht charter clients every day, attend their events and give round-the-clock support. Around 85% of our business comes from repeat clients and direct referrals, some of our clients have chartered with us for 9 years in a row!
MY Tortoise, available for charter during Cannes Lions
OO: How does Bespoke Yacht Charter go above and beyond to help clients make a decision to book a Cannes event charter?
RC: Complete dedication to the client’s goals and visions is key to building a strong relationship. Once you understand the client, particularly for Lions as this is the Festival of Creativity, we can then bring new ideas to them and become part of that creative process.
Sometimes we know from initial discussions that clients are perhaps not ready for a full week's charter and we suggest day charters, smaller trips to the Cannes Islands or even for them just to take a helicopter trip. I meet many people in Cannes who are there for the first time and I take time to discuss all options, not just yachts.
This develops trust and clients come back year after year with questions. We support them until they’re ready to make that step to a full week's event charter and we give them a week to remember!
OO: For a first-time charterer, how is the offering from Bespoke Yacht Charter different from your competitors?
RC: The advantage of having a small team is that clients know they will always deal with the same person. We take time to get to know our clients, and are always there throughout the entire process, from the initial booking to the event itself. We are in Cannes for the entire Lions Festival.
We make it our business to look after every aspect of their event - for example, our team has booked helicopters for hotel guests who missed their taxi to the airport or dealt with a fully booked top hotel to arrange a last-minute cocktail party for 40 guests!
Most importantly, even though Cannes Lions is fast paced, we never forget to keep up with events inside the Palais. We congratulate clients on winning awards and make sure we stay abreast of what's important to them throughout their entire Cannes experience.
The swim platform of MY Yvonne, available for charter through Bespoke Yacht Charter.
OO: What would you say are the 3 biggest challenges to a prospective client who may opt to go it alone and not use the expertise of a yacht charter broker?
RC: It's almost impossible to book a yacht without a yacht charter broker. The first challenge would be having access to the right yachts.
Secondly, dealing with the port and the berth applications would be incredibly hard without a broker. The port send back almost 50% of berth applications as they are filed incorrectly, they are strict and it is much easier with an experienced broker – I’ve completed well in excess of 100 berth applications and I take every file to the port office in person.
Thirdly, having a contact between the Captain and all suppliers. Of course, an event planner could do this, but if they don’t understand the details of how a yacht works, they could plan things that just don’t work with yachts giving Captains and crew big headaches!
OO: Budget and branding are 2 major elements that a client needs to consider when booking a yacht charter for an event in Cannes. How do you find a balance for clients who have different budgets and branding needs?
RC: What is permissible in the way of branding varies from event to event, so its firstly important to understand what the event organisers will allow. For Cannes Lions, clients are permitted perhaps the most branding opportunities of all the Cannes events.
Having the knowledge to understand what is possible on board, and who can provide branding to suit client's requirements within budget is where our experience comes in. For clients on a smaller budget, we maximise their branding exposure by matching them with smaller yachts, still able to host large enough events onboard, and use the marketing space to their best advantage.
Some clients will go the full hog and have everything made bespoke for the brand, such as a branded DJ stage in company colours, but a few well-placed wing flags and simple banners, if done well, can ensure everyone is noticed regardless of budget.
The same applies to the yachts, some clients spend a fortune, others are more careful, so we take smaller yachts, but perhaps spend more on the decoration to give a more intimate, personal approach. Both work very well, particularly at Cannes Lions where many companies know each other and guests will float from yacht to yacht throughout cocktail hour so it works very well to have variety.
Elegant 33m MY Antisan, one of Rachel's recommendations for Cannes Lions.
OO: How does Bespoke Yacht Charter stay updated with charter yachts and their crews?
RC: With over 15 years of experience in Cannes event charters, we have a clear understanding of yachts best suited to which events. Some yachts do not take part in event charters and some of those that do are exceptionally busy. We take time to find and get to know alternatives. Yachts who are happy to take on event charters but are perhaps not based locally and are seen in every Cannes event.
Finding a yacht whose style fits perfectly with that of the brand is the difference between a good event charter and the exceptional.
We communicate with Captains regularly and visit as many yachts as we can throughout the year so we know first-hand what works, if the furniture moves, how many we can seat for lunch for example.
OO: With the rise of online information, charter apps and digital technology, what methods do you use to stay relevant in the charter market and promote your company?
RC: Information and an SEO genius! We spend a considerable amount of time producing relevant content, targeting specific clients for specific events.
Our experience helps us to identify what can make the event special for each client and we spend time to stay in touch and build relationships. In the fast-paced creative industry which comes to Cannes Lions each June, people move around but building those personal relationships often leads to new companies coming on board from personnel who have moved to new companies but still like to work with us.
Also, social media and SEO content is all super important and its vital to stay one step ahead, by also being very aware of the competition but personal relationships are still surprisingly relevant in this age of technology.
The decks of MY Tortoise lend themselves to parties.
OO: What are the main yachting destinations that you specialise in?
RC: Our business is heavily focussed on private vacation yacht charters in the South of France and Cannes event charters, but we have many clients who cruise further afield to the Italian Riviera, Sardinia, Capri, Sicily and to the Adriatic.
Croatia and Montenegro are very special places to me and we like to spend several weeks a year exploring new destinations. We also have many clients who love to charter in Greece and Turkey and we arrange several charters per season in the Caribbean.
RW: What processes do you have in place after a client books a Cannes yacht charter to ensure the client is satisfied before, during and after the charter?
RC: Communication and planning is key here. Being available for the clients at every stage is vital throughout the entire charter process. Whether it’s a family vacation or a large Cannes Lions corporate charter, yacht charters involve fairly large budgets and it’s important to give clear and full information at each stage.
Making sure all costs are disclosed, understanding client expectations and then exceeding them, that the Captains are properly briefed, introducing clients and Captains in good time. Remembering details, like how guests prefer to be addressed, how they like their tea in the morning.
During the charter there is a balance between staying in contact and disturbing a tranquil holiday or an important business meeting, so we tend to be led by the clients here, some are on the phone all the time, others we don’t hear from until the end.
We always stay in touch with Captains throughout and during events; we are on board at least once per day. With events, clients usually have lots of branding and extra equipment that they will ship to Cannes in advance. At the end of the event, often yachts will need to leave port to go to their next charter, so we offer a service to collect all material and keep in safe storage until the next year. This ensures guests can leave the yacht at the end of a busy week and not be left stranded on the quay with all their branding!
Follow up calls and discussions of what worked and what can be improved is vital and as we see first-hand events as they happen, we are well positioned to advise on future events and how to get the most out of the yacht charter experience.
RW: Which yachts do you recommend for Cannes event charters in 2018?
RC: My top 5 yachts for Cannes Lions would be:
M/Y NEW STAR