As MYBA celebrates its 30th anniversary, it can say without reservation that the last decade has been a doozy.
The changing times have challenged the bedrock yachting association on nearly every front. The technological revolution pushed its signature database to the brink. The rapid and unchecked expansion of the market caused friction between established players and newcomers. And that’s to say nothing of the massive haemorrhaging that occurred following the financial crisis.
Throughout, MYBA has fought to maintain its position as the most influential association in the yachting industry.
And it would be hard to argue that it hasn’t.
“As a charter manager, every day, every hour, I use the MYBA charter agreement and I’m always on the YACHTFOLIO database,” says Nicolas Fry, charter manager with Camper & Nicholsons in Monaco. “They are my tools that I use every day, all the time. I go to the MYBA Genoa Charter Show, and that’s the most important show of the year if you want to promote your boats.”
MYBA is integral to the day-to-day operation of the industry. In many ways, it is the very infrastructure the industry relies upon.
But that doesn’t mean it will always be this way. Things change, as the last decade has shown, and MYBA is in the midst of its own transition – a transition into a more forward-thinking and a more open-minded organisation that is ready to adapt in order to maintain its position as the most influential association.
At least, this is what many of the newer MYBA members believe to be the case. They sense a newfound optimism – a fresh and positive perspective – emerging from within the ranks.
“It’s changed – and it’s changed in a good way,” says Martha Lukasik, a charter broker with CharterWorld. “They are opening up now to younger people because I think they realise that one day these people will take over.”
By doing this and by keeping an eye on the future, some say, MYBA will still be the most influential association in another 30 years.
Open minds, open doors
MYBA hasn’t always been the recipient of such positive feedback. In past years, it might have been described as cold, closed-off, and protective of established interests.
Fry first applied to MYBA in 2008, he says, at a time when he was new to the industry and starting out with a smaller company. He went to the MYBA office to inquire about membership but says the greeting he received was cold. “It felt far away and not welcoming,” he says.
Sacha Williams, the director of Charter Marketing Europe for Camper & Nicholsons, hired Fry a couple of years ago and encouraged him to re-apply.
“She told me: ‘The only way to make MYBA change is to share your ideas with them and to do that you need to be a member,’ ” says Fry.
Fry became a member in June, but feels the application process only favoured him once he began working for a more established company.
“MYBA is a big organization,” says Lukasik. “There will always be people who will say bad things about it and people who will try to complain. But what’s worse is I feel that the people who are complaining about MYBA are not doing anything.”
This was what prompted Williams to join initially.
“I’ve never really agreed with sitting back and doing nothing,” says Williams, who has been a member for nearly four years and sits on the Charter Boat Shows Committee. “So I figured that if there are any real gripes with the association, I might as well join and contribute.”
The perception now is that all that seems to have changed in the past several years, and some feel it is important that MYBA continues to make itself more welcoming to new members.
“It’s just like anything: if you don’t know it, then it feels daunting,” says Nick Trotter, owner of Meridian Yacht Charters. “If you think something is cold and exclusive, well, go inside. Go inside the old stone library and talk to the librarian.”
“Somebody new that’s coming in is really valuable, because they bring a new perspective and new ideas,” continues Trotter, who has been a member for more than four years and sits on the Charter Committee. “And we have to make sure they feel welcome to do that.”
New faces, new ideas
No one is suggesting that MYBA sacrifice or lower its standards. On the contrary, those standards are what set it apart.
Bertrand Mattei, a charter manager at YACHTZOO, who is applying for membership, feels that maintaining high ethical standards is the most important role MYBA plays.
However, some feel MYBA should recruit newer, younger members, and encourage greater participation from them.
“I think we need to try to get more younger people on board who are serious, enthusiastic and passionate,” says Jenny Burgess, charter manager at Burgess Yachts. She’s been working in the industry for nearly eight years now and only last year did she become a MYBA member.
“I think the time people are keenest is when they’re young and fresh and learning the job,” says Burgess, who sits on the I.T./YACHTFOLIO Committee. “We don’t want members who don’t want to develop their skills within the industry, but if people are keen to learn and want to develop and want to be in the industry for the next 10 or 20 years, then let’s catch them when they’re young.”
Mattei is an example of this. He is scheduled to sit his written review shortly, but already he has been active on the I.T./YACHTFOLIO Committee. He may become one of the youngest members, at 28 years old, but with nearly seven years in the industry under his belt, he’s no novice.
“Being a MYBA individual member gives me the opportunity to become an actor in our industry,” writes Mattei, his enthusiasm evident even via email. “Being a spectator is easy but it’s not my cup of tea. I want to take part in discussions and contribute to the development of our industry.”
Already MYBA has taken steps in this direction, says Williams. When she attended her first meeting, “the thing that struck me was the lack of younger MYBA members in the meetings I was going to,” she says. “Generally, you could count them on one hand.”
“Everything is going in the right direction now,” she says, while noting that things can always be improved. “I think they need to start embracing social media, and maybe that will help in reaching out to young professionals as well.”
In fact, just earlier this month, on 8 September, MYBA published its new Professional Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/MYBA.WorldwideYachting), as if to answer this concern.
It is worth noting that several people mentioned the Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY), a networking and professional association. Its Monaco division was founded only one year ago and its membership has already grown to well over 100 members. Fry and Williams both sit on the board, of which YPY’s vice president, Alex Treleani, is also a MYBA member.
“They’re not conflicting associations,” says Williams, who noted that MYBA President Fiona Maureso and Vice President Jacqui Lockhart attended one of the first meetings to advocate on behalf of MYBA.
But Williams noted that young people want to get involved. “Clearly it’s addressing something that no one really had before,” she says.
The right direction
There is a definitive sense that MYBA has already changed for the better.
“I feel like it’s something that I want to be a part of,” says Lukasik, who joined MYBA seven years ago while working for Sunreef Yachts Charter. “Next year I would like to be playing a role in a committee.”
This is Trotter’s advice to anyone getting involved with MYBA. While some may view MYBA membership as an end in itself, he says you have to work to really capitalise on those benefits. It is more than just a stamp on a business car or website.
“I really think that if you go into it just for the benefits, then you probably won’t get any,” he says. “What MYBA does so well is it fosters a greater degree of communication between the different constituencies that make up the charter industry. And it provides a platform for discussion, for getting certain things done.”
Burgess says MYBA members sought out her opinions even before she officially joined, and that her understanding of the industry has grown significantly through participation.
“You learn a lot from being a MYBA member because it’s a mixture of different people, ages and experience,” she says. “We can all learn a lot from each other’s views. And each person in the committee then takes this away with them to their team at their company and they’re able to say: What do you all think?”
One area where this was evident was in the design and launch of YACHTFOLIO. The committee sought regular feedback from members and non-members alike and ultimately released a product which is widely considered to be a vast improvement over MYBAnet. One of the final improvements that is currently being worked on is to make the brochures more user-friendly.
And while many agreed that MYBA was headed in the right direction, opinions differed a bit more when asked where MYBA should move in the future.
Finding the future
There are many different ideas for where MYBA should move in the coming years. Some feel MYBA is exactly where it should be, but that it should continue to open itself up to new members and to train and educate brokers of all varieties.
Others feel it is too charter-centric – that the brokerage and sales side of the business ought to once again return to equal footing within the association.
In an attempt to address this, MYBA is developing YACHTFOLIO Sales, which is scheduled to be operational next year as a tool for sales brokerage.
In addition, MYBA has endorsed and invested in the Palma Superyacht Show, which features both yachts for charter and for sale. The show has two successful years under its belt, and MYBA is continuing to offer its support – through monetary investment, marketing, and website assistance – to the show’s organisers to ensure its continued success.
Still others say that its primary focus should be to elevate the standards throughout the entire industry, or that it could play a larger role in lobbying efforts. Both of these, it could be argued, MYBA has already started to do in various ways.
However, the most convincing argument could perhaps be made in light of the recent name-change undertaken by MYBA in 2007, when it ceased to be the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association. From that point on, it has been The Worldwide Yachting Association.
“It is well known all around the world,” says Fry. “Maybe they should set up an office in Asia to be sure their ideas are spread over there.”
One man who whole-heartedly agrees with Fry is Bart Jan Kimman, the managing director of Northrop & Johnson Asia. Kimman was born into the industry, but spent years working in the financial sector in Asia. In 2000, he re-joined the industry as a yacht broker, and he eventually acquired the franchise for Northrop & Johnson in 10 countries in Asia.
“I think it’s important that we establish an organization in Asia that will guide and lead,” he says.
It could be argued that the same goes for other developing markets as well. Jan Kimman attended a MYBA seminar in Nice last year and came away very impressed. He would like to see similar seminars offered in Asia. He also believes that if MYBA doesn’t take that initiative, someone else will, and their standards would likely not be on par with MYBA’s.
“What I would like to see is that MYBA helps us as a new, developing market in Asia,” he says. “That they reach out to us to establish platforms from which we can develop their code-of-conduct, their processes and infrastructure, and basically create better brokers in Asia.”
In the end, that’s largely the idea: to preserve and help the industry grow so that it only gets better and more refined as the years pass.
Mattei spent many years in a music conservatory, and he sees MYBA playing much the same role in teaching and preserving the principles which guide the industry.
“MYBA gives us a music sheet and the prerogative to add notes so we can take part in the song,” he says. “MYBA is a kind of conservatoire for all of us!”
*All photos by OnboardOnline