In May this year, APEAM, the Palma-based Commission for Yacht Charter, delivered the sad news that 1,000 illegal charter boats were operating in the Balearics with legitimate business down 5%.
This month, APEAM’s President, Jose Maria Jimenez, said the industry had “gone through the worst spring in history” and worsened his prediction from 5% to 10%. 25-year-established easyboats could not disagree more.
Lorenzo Vila, Director of Port Andratx-based easyboats, says, “To be honest, our business has gone up like a skyrocket this year. As at mid-August, we have doubled our charter profits in comparison to the entire 2014 season. By early October, the traditional season close, we firmly expect to have tripled our profits versus 2014. Illegal charter yachts certainly aren’t sinking easyboats – although who knows, perhaps we’d be up more than 200% if they were eliminated from the industry.”
The Company has a threefold explanation for this against-the-tide success; citing an Island in the middle of an extended boom, personalised ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service, and paying greater attention to marketing.
Lorenzo continues, “Previously Mallorca was the preserve of Brits and Germans, but now we’re welcoming Swiss, Danish, Norwegians, Americans, Chinese, Egyptians... all with very deep pockets. We’ve aligned ourselves towards this affluent market, have a portfolio of quality boats and avoid discounting. Our service levels are high, and this inspires word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business. easyboats also has a dedicated marketing team to raise brand awareness, as the phrase goes: ‘Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does’.”
Of course easyboats, like the rest of the legitimate Balearic charter business, would still like to see the ‘pirate’ yachts ejected from the marketplace. Usually non-Spanish flagged, they pay no tax (anywhere), no licence fees, embark clients at fuel quays to avoid mooring costs, and put client wellbeing at risk as they are often uninsured and without specialist safety equipment.
Lorenzo finishes, “Clearly we find illegal charter offensive, and I am sure it affects our bottom line, but sadly we take it as part of the game. Just like the hotel industry has to put up with the curse of Airbnb, the yacht charter industry has to put up with the curse of the ‘pirates’. It’s very hard for the authorities to police every boat coming in and out of every marina.”
“I would also totally disagree with Jose Maria Jimenez’s disparaging comment that “in Andratx everything is for charter”. It is true that the Port has a comparatively high number of charter companies, but mostly for small boats, and they are all legal. You’re more likely to find cash transactions between ‘friends’ in the more flashy ports to our east – make your own assumptions.”