While those with the means to socially distance onboard a superyacht would have liked to do so, the reality of COVID-19 travel restrictions has meant that few UHNWIs have isolated onboard a luxury vessel during lockdown. And, instead of gearing up for red carpet events such as the Monaco Grand Prix (postponed until 2021), much of the global fleet of yachts is now sitting idle in ports around the world, its crew unsure of how the remainder of the season will look.
As controls start to ease around the world, there’s a glimmer of hope that all is not lost for the upcoming Northern Hemisphere charter season. "Yachts are showing early signs that they will be on the leading edge of what’s expected to be a slow recovery for travel," Daniel Ziriakus, President and COO of luxury yacht brokerage Northrop & Johnson tells The CEO Magazine.
"A superyacht charter is a safe, hygienic summer travel option that allows guests to avoid large crowds and socially distance while experiencing the height of luxury travel." – Daniel Ziriakus
On top of already meticulous cleanliness standards, extra safety and hygiene protocols are also being implemented onboard many vessels, adding an extra layer of reassurance to anyone considering booking a charter this year. "Additionally, with private aviation options, travellers can essentially avoid all commercial transit in getting to their destination," Daniel says.
The biggest question, however, seems to be where to travel. As it stands, during this Northern Hemisphere summer, Saint-Tropez and other Western Mediterranean hotspots such as Ibiza still look to be off the table. However, the Eastern Mediterranean, and jewels such as Santorini and Dubrovnik, are set to be options. Like much of Europe, Italy, Spain and France have yet to make any promises about when they plan to welcome non-domestic visitors. Other yacht-friendly destinations have already announced their intention to reopen for business over the coming months.
Daniel and the Northrop & Johnson charter team share four destinations that will be open for yacht charters this summer.
There was great relief in the yachting industry when, on 9 May, Croatia announced that it was reopening its borders to EU citizens and their families. There are now no cruising restrictions on yachts of any size and charters are able to embark and disembark in the country’s waters without a quarantine period. "Croatia is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after charter destinations in the world because of its perfect blend of cosmopolitan sophistication and old-world charm," Daniel explains.
Thanks to its proactive approach to combating COVID-19 (at the time of writing, the country had recorded 166 deaths), Greece has already announced its intention to reopen for tourism in July, although the exact date is pending confirmation. Like Croatia, the loosening of restrictions applies only to European citizens. "From the mainland where guests can discover the ancient ruins of Athens to the Greek isles where guests can enjoy beautiful beaches and famed sunsets, Greece is an excellent option for a summer yacht charter," Daniel says.
The pandemic has seen many yachts shelve plans to set sail for the Mediterranean, leaving yacht owners and managers considering what they can salvage from this curtailed season. Many of these vessels are waiting out the crisis in ports along the East Coast of the US. With a goal to reopen its tourism sector in mid-June to early July, and its proximity to Florida, The Bahamas seem like the natural choice for those travelling from the US. "UHNWIs can easily access The Bahamas either by flying in or embarking the yacht in the US and cruising to the islands. The vastness of the Bahamian archipelago still allows for uninhabited islands and deserted beaches," Daniel says.
With the growth in demand for expedition yachts able to cruise to far-flung corners of the globe, it’s no surprise that the raw beauty of Alaska is attracting the superyacht crowd. With the state’s economy fully operational again, it’s another destination to tempt domestic charter guests. "With its rugged natural landscape adorned with glaciers, waterfalls and pine forests to the incredible wildlife found both in the water and ashore, Alaska offers guests an off-the-beaten-path charter where they can experience pristine natural wonders and a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle," Daniel says.