Posted: 15th November 2016 | Written by: Sam Watson
Discovery trips are a perk of the job for yacht charter brokers, but there's no better way to sell the dream than to experience it first hand. As well as confidence in the yacht and its crew, clients increasingly expect detailed knowledge about a destination and what's on offer. On a recent trip to French Polynesia, Bianca Nestor of Burgess shared her views on current hotspots and trends in the charter market.
How did you start out in the yachting industry?
After graduating from Business school in 2008, I was working for Emirates in Dubai where I was introduced to the world of superyachts. Quickly after I jumped ship (excuse the pun!) and joined the 67m Feadship, ANNA, as a stewardess cruising the Med and Caribbean. I have never looked back.
When did you join Burgess and how did it come about?
Burgess has expanded significantly in the US. We have offices in Miami, Beverly Hills and New York. There was a need for an additional charter broker in New York. I made the move from Fort Lauderdale, where I was already working as a broker with another company, and joined the team in the Manhattan office.
How has the role of a charter broker changed in recent years?
Charter broker’s roles have evolved. In addition to having intimate knowledge of yachts we present, we also need to know far more about destinations, especially when a client is looking to visit a new part of the world for the first time. We need to be able to explain why they should visit, what they’ll experience, and what a typical itinerary may look like. Of course captains play a big role in the latter, but as the broker and first-point of contact, it’s important we are well versed.
Logistics is also an important part of the role these days. For example, knowing whether certain client’s private aircrafts can land on desired runways is something you have to stay on top of. Performing client boardings which ensure clients arrive at their yacht and transition smoothly is also an undertaking we do more and more of.
Bianca after whale watching with Tahiti Private Expeditions in Moorea, French Polynesia
Have you seen a shift in the nationalities or age range of your clients over the past 10 years?
Yachting appeals to every nationality. However, being based in NY, many of my clients are North American. Being in the same time zone makes for easier communication and also the ability to meet in person is valuable and appreciated by the client on certain occasions.
More generally, are you seeing a change in the types of charter experience clients are looking for?
Yes, clients who are seasoned charterers are looking ahead in terms of what’s ‘new.’ Experiential charters are gaining popularity, with clients looking to travel even further afield for adventure.
Where there’s a choice, is the client’s priority the yacht or the destination?
Both. First we decide on the charter destination. Once we’ve decided on this we look at the most appropriate yacht that will meet their requirements when they arrive. The two go hand in hand. However, for more remote destinations it’s important that your client understand that he/she may have to make some compromises with regards to their vessel as options are slimmer.
In the business of ‘selling the experience’, knowing the crew is as important as your knowledge of the yacht – how often does a yacht’s crew sway the client’s final choice?
A yacht can gain an excellent reputation through her captain, crew and chef. When a charter yacht has a friendly, professional, charismatic crew it’s a massive plus, clients love to know in advance that a yacht’s crew has positive feedback. Every charter program should be striving to have the best teams aboard. It’s such an important requirement for a charterer.
A trip ashore with the crew of MY ASKARI in Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Which new or emerging destinations are owners and charter clients keen to visit?
South Pacific and French Polynesia are being discussed more frequently as is Cuba and Myanmar in SE Asia.
You’ve just returned from a discovery trip in French Polynesia – what was your overall impression as a charter destination for superyachts?
It is stunning. The Society Islands are bursting with life. The mountains are tall and luscious and the clouds rest on their peaks, while down below the water in the lagoons are the clearest blue I have ever seen. There is a misconception that Tahiti is similar to the Caribbean, when in reality it has it’s own very unique identity.
The Tuamotu Islands, aren’t islands like we know it. They are made up of atolls which are ring shaped reefs; flying over these atolls takes your breath away. The underwater life is some of the best I’ve seen. Whales, sharks, sting rays, and fish every color of the rainbow.
There is great infrastructure for yachts coming over from other parts of the world. Dockage in well serviced marinas, agents for provisioning and transport, and many local service providers for tourists.
What trends have you seen in terms of charter clients’ food or lifestyle preferences over the past 10 years?
Water sports: jet skis, sea bobs, and toys like the beloved water-slide are increasingly popular on family charters.
Our clients are very health conscious so having a highly qualified chef aboard who can cater to a range of eating styles and diets is crucial.
Gyms, and gym equipment are also a fast favorite. Screen projectors on the sundeck for open air cinema nights are also a nice touch!
Diving in Rangiroa
Have you noticed a greater concern for environmental performance among charter clients, for example, are they happy to dispense with bottled water and is there growing interest in yacht carbon offfsetting?
This isn't being manifested in large numbers by charter clients as yet (although it will surely come), but owners of new builds are certainly leading the charge in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of their yachts by specifying reduced carbon dioxide engine/generator emissions, more fuel efficient performance, high tech waste disposal systems and so forth. There will inevitably come a time when the size of a yacht's carbon footprint will be increasingly important to charterers.
With greater choice and access to information online, clients are often better informed of the options before they contact a broker – has this increased competition and are owners more inclined to negotiate rates?
There is definitely more content online for clients to peruse before they get in touch with a broker. However, its important to remember not all content comes from reputable/legitimate sources. Often charter rates and photography can be outdated, and sometimes the yacht has been sold or pulled from the charter market which can create confusion and sometimes disappointment for charterers.
It’s very important to use a broker that attends all the international yacht and charter shows, and stays abreast with yachts available on the charter market. Knowing when a yacht underwent her last interior refit is just as important as knowing the reputation of the crew on board.
Swimming with the rays in Rangiroa Motu Ai Ai
Are you a member of any industry associations and, if so, what are the benefits to your professional role?
My company is a member of MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association. This well respected superyacht industry association sets a high standard of ethics through its code of professional conduct and also provides guidance on complex tax and regulatory issues affecting charter activities.
The association is also responsible for generating standardised sales and charter agreements which have benefitted from input by MYBA members with decades of experience. These legal documents have become crucial tools of the trade for all professional brokers. Brokers are also required to demonstrate a high degree of knowledge and proficiency before becoming members. The association gives clients the reassurance that they are receiving the highest standard of expertise when working with a MYBA broker.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your job?
It is the attention to detail, and often a personal touch, that makes a charter a success.
Planning a client’s charter is going to be a very personal experience for them. Family members often fly in from different parts of the world to come together for a vacation or special occasion. So it’s important to look at the finer details of the charter and establish what’s important to the client. From there I ask myself: what can I do to enhance their experience?
What would you change if you could?
The reluctance of charter clients to travel further afield from the Med and Caribbean. We have excellent charter yachts available in the French Polynesia, the Indian Ocean and South East Asia that would provide incredible platforms to cruise these areas.
Who do you most admire in the world of yachting?
The freedom and wanderlust it creates for charterers. Waking up in a new anchorage every morning and navigating your own path is a truly exceptional experience.
Fam trip friends: Bianca Nestor (Burgess), Sam Watson (OnboardOnline), Pat Codere (Fraser), Diane Fraser (Fraser), Charmaine du Plessis (Burgess)
What was your greatest experience on a boat?
Watching our guests renew their wedding vows on the sun deck, while anchored off of Oresei in Sardinia. It was just turning to dusk and the sundeck had been transformed into a beautiful floral oasis. The crew were invited as guests to the wedding. The ceremony was intimate, and the destination provided a breathtaking backdrop. I remember feeling like we were all in a dream.
Which is your favorite yacht and why?
The brand new 107m explorer yacht ULYSSES - for her amazing go-anywhere capabilities (her hull is ice class), her ability to accommodate 30 guests in 15 suites and her extraordinary range of facilities and leisure equipment (11m swimming pool, large gym and spa, cinema, private owner's deck, helipad, helicopter hangar with refuelling, armada of tenders and toys).
Which is your favorite destination?
Croatia and Montenegro, the scenery is stunning. The towns and villages are postcard perfect, the food is incredibly fresh, and the people are friendly.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I’m usually in Central Park every weekend running or biking around the lake. Or sitting around a table with friends for great food and wine.
Which three objects would you take to your desert island?
I’m stereotypically English, two of my objects would be tea bags and a kettle, my third would be a hammock, so I can lay back and enjoy my tea in paradise!
What is your motto?
Life is not a dress rehearsal. Carpe Diem.