YachtTalk episode 10: Destinations
The tenth episode of Heesen’s YachtTalk signed off 2021 looking forward to new horizons. The Mediterranean remains a favourite yacht hub, but the next generation of owners and charter clients are seeking out more adventurous, original and sustainable destinations to maximise their return on experience. To discuss the latest hotspots, host Charlotte Kan was joined by Geordie Mackay-Lewis, co-founder and CEO of bespoke travel and yachting experience agency Pelorus, and Michelle Johnson, editor of luxury lifestyle magazine, Tempus.
Globetrotter Geordie kicked off the show talking about his desire to widen the range of destinations experienced by yacht owners and charter guests. Among the new locations he expects will become more accessible and attractive is the Red Sea, which is within “striking distance” of the Mediterranean.
“It’s a great winter alternative to the Caribbean, it’s less strenuous for the yachts and is near to many yards, but more importantly, the region is really opening up,” says Geordie. “Saudi Arabia is now permitting luxury yachts and providing access to incredible diving. We’re working with the government to make sure it becomes a prime yachting destination.”
“When we first launched Pelorus, we discovered that the yacht sector was very focused on the Mediterranean and Caribbean – the so-called milk run,” he adds. “We wanted to challenge that in a positive way, which meant creating new yachting destinations. That involves installing new infrastructure, bringing in specialists and educating the yacht industry on what can be done.”
The design of explorer yachts, such as Heesen’s XVenture, that have assets and toys on board, have enabled guests to enjoy new types of experiences. In addition, with companies like Pelorus that bring in yachts to key areas and facilitate logistics, there are no longer boundaries in terms of what people can do and where they can do it.
“Enhancing that experiential return on investment is what we’re increasingly trying to promote,” says Geordie, listing dune buggies, submersibles and inflatable boats among some of the more exciting and newer activities on offer.
“Experiential is the word of modern luxury travel,” says Michelle. “We’re seeing a real hunger post-Covid among the ultra-rich to have a flexible, personalised, unique experience. They want to feel energised, discover something new, or to experience the iconic areas in a new way.”
Regarding luxury trends, the idea of discovery runs high. In the fallout from Covid, UHWNIs are reported to be doubling what they would typically spend on a vacation. “People are taking the time to consider what they want from their travel and how they travel,” says Michelle. “The journey is as much a part of it as the destination, if not more so.”
Private jet travel is also seeing huge demand, which speaks to the desire for convenience and being together with family without putting your health at risk, explained Michelle, who added that conversely, a reported 83% of people want more sustainability and conservation in their travel, and UHNWIs are investing large sums of money into making that happen.
“The responsible travel trend isn’t going anywhere, it’s set to stay,” agrees Geordie. “We’re needing to provide more detailed itineraries for clients to show them how they travel, what’s involved and how long they spend there. People want to travel with purpose.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Pelorus launched its charitable Foundation, which includes yacht conservation. The aim is to matchmake scientists with vessels that have capacity, anywhere in the world, by encouraging charter guests and owners to gift a percentage of their onboard time to research.
All Pelorus trips also include mandatory carbon offset – “No one has pushed back on it yet, it’s been really welcomed and is something we’re encouraging the rest of the industry to adopt,” says Geordie.
“Travel is unfortunately a high polluting industry, so taking the first steps towards responsible travel is a necessity,” says Michelle. “Preservation of the oceans is paramount for everyone, and yacht owners are interested in learning more about what can be done.”
When asked to define what ‘luxury’ means to them personally, Michelle responded: “Like any concept, it’s different for everyone. For us at Tempus, it’s time – how you like to spend your time, what you value and how you achieve that. Time is one of the only commodities that means something to everyone, and how you invest your time is a true luxury.”
Geordie responded: “Creating and capturing memories is such a luxury these days. We have moved away from physical goods in favour of experiences. Our clients are looking more at buying assets that create memories, and yachts are a fantastic example of that. Whether it’s trying something new in the Med or heading to a place that the family can’t reach without a yacht – that’s true luxury, and I think we’ll see a lot more of that in the coming years.”
Outlook for 2022
Joining the show remotely, Heesen CFO Niels Vaessen reflected on the past year in a pandemic – including a return to the Monaco Yacht Show where Moskito was on show and Heesen launched its new BlueNautech sustainability programme – and gave his outlook on the years to come.
“Looking back at 2021, it was an exceptional year for Heesen. On the one hand we had to deal with Covid, many people had to work from home or in shifts, and that was quite a challenge. On the other hand, we were very successful commercially, selling five yachts in total. We are now sold out for 2022/23, but as we’re a financially solid company we’ve decided to invest in our speculation programme building semi-custom yachts for the coming years. That includes Project Akira, which is ready for delivery in 2024. Our business model of combining custom yachts with fast delivery platform yachts still proves to be very successful.”
Heesen’s 60m steel Project Falcon is almost ready for delivery and the flagship 80m all-aluminium Cosmos is due to deliver in April 2022. Project SkyFall and Project Sparta will both be ready for delivery in 2023.
Tune in for the next episode of YachtTalk in 2022.