Over the past week stories have been circulating in the national and international press describing a woeful yachting season for marinas in the south of France.
The Daily Telegraph, Nice Matin and Le Figaro have all reported a visible reduction in the number of yachts berthed in marinas from Antibes to St Tropez due mainly to prohibitively high costs on the Cote d’Azur. Luxury yacht owners and charterers are not short of funds but neither are they short of alternatives along the coast in Spain and Italy.
This comes as no surprise to the yachting community and we’ve been talking about the potential impact of rising costs for months.
Firstly the introduction of 20% VAT in France has inflated berth prices as well as fuel, provisioning and maintenance costs, causing many yachts to look further afield. Sales by the four largest marine fuel suppliers in France have reportedly fallen by a staggering 50% this season as captains increasingly look to Spain or Italy where current interpretations of European tax rules are more lenient.
Franck Dosne, manager of Port Vauban in Antibes is quoted in David Chazan’s article in The Daily Telegraph saying, “The fall in visits can easily be seen simply by looking at a map showing where yachts are berthed in the western Mediterranean.” The article also reports that revenues have fallen by 30% at Port de Saint-Tropez and by 40% at Toulon, a less glamorous but popular sailing destination.
The second dampener is the new requirement for yacht crew and their employers to pay French social security contributions. This requirement came into force on 1 July and although it is still unclear precisely how it will be enforced, as well as adding to the cost of yacht ownership it creates uncertainty.
With growing concern for businesses and jobs, last week three local politicians - Renaud Muselier, representing the Riviera, Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, and Hubert Falco, the mayor of Toulon – wrote an open letter to French president Emmanuel Macron requesting his urgent assistance. They state:
“The gravity of the economic situation of the yachting sector in the Provence-Alps-Riviera region makes it necessary for us to appeal for your direct intervention”. Specifically, to allow France to compete with its Spanish and Italian neighbours, they are calling for a level playing field via “urgent harmonisation of tax and social regulations at the European level”.
So far there has been no official response but given the importance of the yachting industry to the region's coastal economy it merits urgent attention.