In biology, evolution is the change in characteristics of a species over several generations. It couldn’t be a more apt name for a company which is hoping to perform the same feat in the yachting industry.
From today (Tuesday June 23rd), Evolution Yachting launches a revolutionary new pricing structure, ripping up the rule book to bring transparency, clarity and accountability in an industry first.
A bold and disruptive move in a business not known for rocking the boat, the agency’s pioneering introduction of a unique price structure, divided into three tiers according to different geographical regions that is clear and easy to understand, is absolutely necessary and long overdue, according to Evolution’s CEO Stefano Tositti.
‘As the yachting industry and the size of boats grows, there have been continuous requests which have become stronger in the past few years for transparency regarding charges for the client,’ says Stefano, speaking from his office in Venice. ‘The client has to know how much they are paying and for what they are paying.’
It sounds blindingly obvious to harmonize prices across the Mediterranean, helping yachts and management companies control their budget, yet historically, this is not the way things have been done.
‘Fragmentation is a problem,’ explains Stefano, who started his career in the family shipping business and has worked in the yacht industry for the past 20 years. ‘In the Med, there are different rates between countries and even within the same country. The captain has to justify and explain these and it is a nightmare because there is no clarity.
‘A boat which moves around the Med, calling at a number of different countries and ports and working with 10 different agents will have 10 different charges or prices to pay. It’s impossible to budget and often, a captain might not know what they are being charged for until they see the bills, unless they regularly use certain ports and have the previous data.’
With yachts and management companies particularly price sensitive in the post Covid-19 world, never has there been a more timely moment to overhaul the system, particularly as closer scrutiny on every single agency charge will be a given during the summer cruising season.
‘Covid-19 has changed the landscape and made this issue even more important because owners are keener to understand what money they are spending and why,’ adds Stefano.
However, Evolution’s new model is no kneejerk reaction to the pandemic; indeed, it’s part of the company’s long-term business strategy and has been in the planning since Stefano’s previous brainchild Acquera Yachting was established in 2018. Mergers with G&K Yachting in January 2019 and Evolution Yachting in February 2020 have created a powerhouse agency with 20 offices across nine Mediterranean countries.
‘We focused on building a company rather than a group, with one ownership, which allows us to do things differently from everybody else and disrupt the market,’ he says. ‘We started analysing the habits of different countries in terms of invoicing and charging, which is a jungle for everyone to navigate.
‘We decided to adapt the clear and transparent pricing model Evolution was already using in Spain, where it is a market leader, to the entire Med after surveying hundreds of clients, captains, management companies and brokers. Their answers were inspiring and motivating. They want us to go down this route, charging a price which is transparent, accountable and budgeted and not too different from one country to another.
‘It has taken a while to reach this point. We had to take into account the geography of different countries; not all are the same. You have Monaco, Montenegro and Albania which have one port but also Italy, Greece and Croatia with many ports. We also had to challenge our local managing directors because, of course, everybody is psychologically restricted to their old habits. Doing something new and different is seen as risky.’
Unifying price differences across the Med, enabling a yacht to accurately plan financially for an entire season, will be popular in the client arena no doubt, while possibly causing dissent among competitors. However, this is no reason not to act, according to Stefano.
‘There is always the worry of moving from the common way of doing things into uncertainty. For sure, criticism will come and defence of old habits will be there. That is no surprise. But in any sector, there is a disruptive player and that is our role in the market. We don’t fear this. The client can decide and we respect them. We are just proposing ourselves in a different manner because we need to change the market if we want to be perceived as innovators and we have to be the first. We have to be brave and do what we say we do.
‘We want to change the role of the yacht agent and we have the expertise and the client support to make this happen. In the last 10 years, we have seen increased effort from management companies, brokers and captains in seeking rates in advance and knowing what would be charged.
‘Our clients will be happy and I think management companies will be too. Our objective is to give our clients a transparent way of doing things, and we are giving that to the industry too. There is a comfort zone and doing things differently means you have to shoulder a risk. Our colleagues might prefer to rely on what they are already doing and justify this but our vision is something different and we are breaking the habits in a professional manner. If others follow us, it will be good for the industry. But my view is the copy is never as good as the original!’
Evolution’s ethos is simple: one group, one company, one price structure divided into three tiers, one point of remittance and one billing format with a pre-arrival package per port and then a price per hour (local formalities and costs aside).
Stefano is eager to point out that transparency doesn’t equate to cheaper rates. ‘We are talking about the highest level of service 24/7, mobilising a huge team of professionals who are available to assist the yacht and client requirements. This cannot be perceived as cheap but the advantage is you will know what you will pay in advance.
‘In an ideal world, there would be one pricing level but the reality is that the price of an employee or manager in Monaco is not the same as in Albania or Montenegro so we have three areas of pricing. For example, the captain of a large yacht which sails from the Balearics to St Tropez, Monaco, Sardinia and Naples will pay exactly the same amount in each port.
‘Other companies apply a different rate for each different area of Italy. It’s crazy. Our system means Italy has one price everywhere and Sardinia has the same price as Italy, because it is Italian.
‘Clients will receive one bill and if they use us in different countries, they don’t have to go through a number of different bank accounts, creating confusion. It’s a secondary advantage.
‘We feel this is an important and consistent step forward which the market is asking the industry to take. We are proud of what we’re doing, it will bring clarity to an area that has always been grey and never really understood in this huge jungle of prices.’
Transparency and honesty are qualities Stefano rates highly. With a family name synonymous with boating (his father Sergio established a shipping agency in Venice in 1950s to assist commercial ships), reputation is paramount.
‘We need to generate income and make profit but my father taught me that while money can come and go, you only have your name and reputation,’ he says.
‘We are a young company but we have built our core values on image, service, teamwork and professionalism and these are very important to us. There are many more efforts and objectives to announce in the coming months and years. We are continuously developing solutions which we are bringing to the market.
‘Our pricing strategy is the latest of these and with no unforeseen costs and charges, I think we can call that a revolution!'