2020 was a year like none of us had ever experienced before. Not only did we find ourselves coming to grips with a deadly virus which put us and all our families at risk, each one of us no doubt experienced our own challenges within the industry we work in, whether this was from a business or crew perspective.
Way back in February we started talking about the virus in the office – even then, just a couple of months before lockdown we were blind to the effects it would have on us personally and professionally. In fact, I took a short trip to Dubai mid-February where I saw only two people wear masks the entire time, the whole experience was very much business (well, holiday!) as usual.
Things continued as normal for the next few weeks – incoming jobs increased as yachts looked to start their seasons. However, with mainland Europe being a few weeks ahead of us in terms of case numbers, by mid-March we had a few clients putting jobs on hold. From there, it escalated very quickly as we saw most of the world go into lockdown.
Amazingly, we still managed to help some crew join yachts in April, whilst at the same time the WH team were trying to adapt to working at home (some having to home-school or look after small children) – as a close-knit team always together in the office, this certainly took some getting used to. Thankfully our online 3pm tea breaks and quizzes kept us sane!
As restrictions started to ease slightly and owners were able to travel to their yachts, we started seeing an increase in requests again. However, this came with added complications – many were temporary positions (to allow on board crew to go on leave or similar) and most needed crew who could travel most easily to the yacht, which often meant finding candidates where the vessel was located. It continued like this for most of the summer and we saw yachts finish the season later than usual.
We noticed a very mixed approach to the winter season – many completing yard periods, some simply being laid up or others continuing with crossings to Caribbean, Indian Ocean or Pacific. Despite being quiet with job numbers, we were lucky enough to experience a very positive end of the year for the business, which was a fantastic way to recognise the teams’ hard work for what had been a very difficult year.
2021 – what can we expect to see?
As I write this, we are into yet another UK wide lockdown, which was not unexpected given the case numbers. However, despite the gloom and doom, the news of the vaccine has been a welcome relief and certainly brings some positivity to the year ahead. Talking to clients, we already hear of plans being made for the summer season and I have a feeling this could start quite early this year if the vaccine is rolled out quick enough.
Although some builds were delayed by the pandemic, again it is great to hear of those with plans to launch this year and others getting back on track and trying to catch up on missed time – certainly a very busy time for the yards.
On the shorebased side, many of our marine clients are putting plans in place to start recruiting again; although some are still holding out for the immediate future, it is again great to speak to so many clients expecting a surge of business as the year progresses and therefore requiring larger teams to help support this (our shorebased consultant Luke will have his work cut out for him this year!)
Pandemic aside, the start of the year has also seen a dramatic change, something which almost was forgotten about last year – BREXIT. This will no doubt bring about some challenges and we know there are a lot of questions still unanswered. We have been working closely with clients and posing such queries to a specialist contact of ours as well as adapting to required business changes ourselves.
We are optimistic that this will not pose a long-term challenge to our industry and could see possible benefits (to the UK at least) if for example more yachts leaving Northern European yards head to the UK to clear out of the EU. However, the situation remains uncertain for now.
Other possible predictions for this year include a charter market bounce back – many who were not able to take trips last year will have postponed, new large yachts have come onto the charter market and owners may look to recoup where they lost out last year, so perhaps some good deals to be had!
Hopefully travel will be less restricted as the months go on, which should make things a great deal easier for crew and guests alike and with many who extended their seasons into October/November last year, could this be the new norm? (Sorry crew!)
Overall, it is still a very, very difficult time we live in at this moment in time and I am sure we still have dark days to come – the virus continues to take lives and we send our thoughts to anyone who has been affected in any way. Looking ahead, we may see large businesses which do not survive (which could in turn affect owners’ yachts), though no doubt we will see other businesses flourish (and therefore bringing new yacht owners into the industry).
We may not be out of the woods yet, but there certainly looks to be some glimmer of hope on the horizon for 2021.
If you wish to discuss 2021 plans, industry salary insights, career moves or training recommendations, get in touch for a chat – all of our consultants’ direct contact details are listed online.