When your clients are anywhere and everywhere you need a global presence to take care of business. For successful yacht agents this means having a local network on the ground with the expert knowledge and passion to give clients the best experience wherever they are. We spoke with Caterina Oliviero of BWA Italy to find out more.
OnboardOnline: When did you first join the yachting industry and what was your role?
Caterina Oliviero: It was in 2004, I started as a seasonal yacht agent mostly taking care of formalities and paperwork, berth reservations and a bit of back office work and general accounting. I came from the shipping industry and I didn’t even know what a yacht looked like!
OO: When did you join BWA Group and how did it come about?
CO: It was one year ago, actually my previous position was in a company related to BWA Group so I didn’t have to look around very far!
OO: Which services does BWA Italy offer and which represents the largest part of your business?
CO: It’s difficult to summarize in a few words. Firstly, we are agents, and in Italy it’s a professional role for which you must pass an exam in order to operate. As yacht agents, we take care of all the formalities related to arrival and departure from/to a specific port in relation to the harbour master, customs, immigration police, and so on.
We are also a concierge service, so we take care of requests from yacht owners, charter guests and the crew, and this can vary from organizing a simple transfer, a restaurant reservation, organizing an event or a wedding, to supplying yachts with provisions, fuel and spare parts.
OO: What does your typical day in high season involve?
CO: Can you figure out an octopus? That’s me with a phone at the end of each tentacle! I start early every morning and never finish, I’m available 24/7.
OO: Historically you had a big presence in Venice and the Adriatic but you now operate countrywide. How have things changed at ground level and what are the advantages for your clients?
CO: Yes, it’s true, since last year we’ve operated countrywide and it has been a real challenge but this is what I love in order not to get bored!
The fact that we operate in a wider area helps us to look after our clients 360°, for their entire trip, with the advantages of one point of reference, central billing, central itinerary planning, central cash to master/APA management and so on.
I say ‘we’ as BWA Italy is not only me but a network of professional teams in each port and each office. We are global in the sense that we operate everywhere but each office consists of local experts who really know their area. At BWA Yachting we take great pride in our local knowledge and contacts so we can offer our clients the very best experience wherever they are.
OO: More broadly, how do the various BWA country offices collaborate regarding a particular client, or in general?
CO: We are constantly in touch, we do share a common database and for each client we act according to their individual needs. Every client is different and we have different approaches according to their different requests.
We also share information on updated laws, regional news and new opportunities, because each of us is a local expert in our respective countries.
OO: How do you keep on top of changes in European tax laws affecting yacht charter and do you see more captains seeking clarity and advice?
CO: We must always stay updated by reading a lot and double checking laws with experts, so captains are not the only ones looking for clarity. Often there is a lot of confusion because in some places EU laws that should be common everywhere are interpreted differently by local authorities, so we work hard to provide the best advice so clients avoid getting into trouble.
OO: When it comes to itineraries, have you seen any recent trends or changes in the types of experience that owners and charter guests are looking for?
CO: The majority is still looking for the usual itineraries, but recently I have noticed more interest in new destinations and different experiences. There’s more interest to experience the local life, going to traditional restaurants, visiting places where the locals go and doing things a bit outside the usual path.
OO: You also mentioned a greater focus on concierge services – how does this work in practice and what does it cover?
CO: This is the part of my job I like most! You must be an expert on each location and stay updated on news and events. You have to know which is the best table in each restaurant, know the menu, and you have to have the right contacts to make the impossible POSSIBLE!
This goes for organizing a large event to a private dinner, a special experience on board, a private tour of a museum or a visit to a vineyard, just to mention a few.
OO: What is the most unusual or challenging request you have handled?
CO: After so many years in this industry, I am not able to recognize anymore what is unusual. All requests are taken seriously and given the same importance, there is no client A and B, and everything must be done 10 minutes ago!
I am used to working under a lot of pressure, serving many different boats at the same time, especially during events like the Venice Film Festival or the Art Biennale Exhibition Vernissage.
Some fairly usual requests include providing clients with life jackets for their dogs, or supplying live crickets to feed an owner’s iguana. I also arranged the extraordinary opening of a restaurant that was closed for the holidays because a client wanted to have dinner only there. Let’s say I never get bored!
Caterina Oliviero, Managing Director of BWA Italy
OO: In your opinion, what is the key to success as a yacht agent?
I think that first of all you really have to love what you are doing, possibly you must be a bit crazy, but you cannot do this job part time or in a cold way, you really give all of yourself in terms of time and commitment. I think clients recognize and appreciate those who give their best to satisfy a request.
OO: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your role so far?
CO: That in working as a team, everything is simpler. Support, brainstorming and sharing information make our business lives very much easier.
OO: Who do you most admire in the world of business/yachting, who has inspired or influenced you?
CO: Generally speaking, I get inspiration from everything and everyone around me. I put in my bag all the experiences I’ve lived directly or indirectly. I learn from every single moment in my business life and my private life (when I can have one), among friends and clients. Working in this industry makes us lucky people; we are in contact with so many nationalities, religions and different ways of thinking.
OO: What would you change if you could?
CO: I would simplify things, in particular I would harmonize the laws in each port of the Mediterranean.
OO: More generally, what are the challenges facing the yachting industry today?
CO: I think the biggest challenge is still to facilitate pleasure and leisure for yacht owners despite all the complications around laws, formalities and paperwork.
OO: Which is your favorite coastal destination?
CO: Venice and the Gulf of Naples. Yes, Venice is my home port but it’s not only a question of feelings here. It’s a great place where all types of client are happy to come because you can experience everything from art and history, high-end shopping and Michelin starred restaurants (we have seven in this town!), to local handicrafts and local farms. So clients can admire the ‘must see’ things and also go off the beaten track.
Of course, it’s worth coming during a special event such as the Art Biennale Exhibition, the Architecture Biennale Exhibition, the Venice Film Festival or the Redentore Festivity.
The Rendentore has an interesting story. In the 16th century Venice suffered a terrible plague which wiped out over a third of the population. Eventually the city's leaders called for divine intervention and promised to build a church if their prayers were answered. When the plague ended in July 1577, as promised, they built the Redentore church on the island of Giudecca and made the 3rd Sunday of every July a day of pilgrimage.
It’s still an important tradition today, and nowadays the whole city comes alive with boats and music and dancing, with a huge firework display at midnight.
The island of Capri
My second love is the Gulf of Naples. The people are very friendly and the food is superb! When you arrive on a yacht you have stunning views from the Amalfi Coast to Mergellina and the islands of Capri and Ischia, both very special. Ischia is probably my favourite and, being a volcanic island, it’s famous for it’s thermal spas and volcanic mud renowned for its health benefits.
What many people don’t know is that Ischia has a rich history in film making, providing the backdrop in over 30 films including The Talented Mr Ripley and Cleopatra! The island also hosts two film festivals during the summer, the Ischia Film Festival and the Ischia Global Film and Music Fest.
OO: What is your motto?
CO: Make it happen, whatever it takes!
About BWA Yachting:
BWA Yachting is a worldwide luxury yacht service provider. BWA Yachting exists to help yacht owners with the increasing demands of managing their superyacht.
We provide a complete range of marine agency services to captains, crew and yacht managers, handling single port calls and last-minute VIP concierge requests through to comprehensive global packages. BWA Yachting also assits in itinerary planning and the implementation of every aspect of the yacht’s trip. With global offices throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and the Americas, BWA Yachting provides an authentic and seamless experience for yachting clients wherever they are.
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