Saturday, November 27 2021

Like many superyacht enthusiasts, Johan Wedell-Wedellsborg spends the summers cruising around the Mediterranean. This year he and his family chose Greece, where they spent a few idyllic weeks island hopping on 56m O’Natalina.

“The fact that you can wake up alone in a bay, go to a small town and eat in a small tavern by the sea is unique. On the French Riviera it’s not the same, you just sail along the coast, there are more yachts and it’s not as isolated as Greece, ”Wedell-Wedellsborg said, owner of the company Weco Shipping which has ties to the Danish royal family.

He is one of a growing number of wealthy families who have chosen to charter a superyacht in Greek waters this summer. It gave a much needed boost to the battered holiday industry in the Aegean nation as it went through a summer marred not only by the coronavirus pandemic, but also by a natural disaster.

“Greece has seen an increase in yachting activity,” said Stewart Campbell, editor-in-chief of Boat International, the superyacht magazine, which tracked 834 superyachts in Greek waters in July, just behind France with 945 and Italy 1,353. “This is well ahead of previous years,” he added.

A chartered vessel is like a floating hotel where the ability to control the environment and screen guests and staff for the virus provides additional security © Anthony Venitis

One of the reasons for this increase is that Greece opened up to tourists earlier than others in the Mediterranean. Foreign visitors, including Americans who were unable to enter Europe due to pandemic restrictions, were welcomed to Greece from mid-May, provided they were fully vaccinated or presented with a negative coronavirus test.

Superyacht owners responded by dispatching their ships to Greece, where they knew they would be able to access them and attract the interest of charters.

Much of the world’s superyacht fleet spends half the year in the Caribbean before moving to the Mediterranean for the European summer. The vast majority are motorized vessels with professional crew, as opposed to sailing yachts.

“We have had so many requests for Greece this year. . . Our main problem is that there is not enough supply [to meet] demand, ”said Barbara Dawson, senior charter broker at Camper & Nicholsons, superyacht specialist.

Another reason for Greece’s popularity is that, with an extensive coastline and over 220 inhabited islands, wealthy superyacht owners have found it to be safer than other destinations. A chartered vessel is essentially a floating luxury hotel where the ability to control the environment and screen guests and staff for the virus provides an added level of security.

Tavern in Mykonos

Superyachts boost the local economy as people often moor and visit bars and restaurants such as this tavern in Mykonos © Getty Images

Greece has suffered from the pandemic, but has not seen the same peaks as Italy, France or Spain – although new cases have risen sharply in the past two months. “Greece was seen as a safe country which performed well during Covid-19, especially for our US customers,” Dawson said.

Golden Yachts, which builds and leases superyachts, was another beneficiary. “Last year the market was an absolute nightmare, this year it’s completely the opposite. We don’t have a single day off for any of our 42 yachts until the end of August, ”said John Dragnis, Managing Director.

He continued, “We have leading customers, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities who charter our yachts and believe it is the safest choice for their vacations during the pandemic.”

Greece has been ravaged by serious forest fires this summer, especially on the island of Evia and around the capital Athens. The rise in infections has also resulted in local restrictions and blockages in some popular destinations.

Still, that hasn’t deterred foreign tourists, with more than 6 million arrivals already this year. “The last time we saw such a figure was before the 2019 pandemic,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said in a television interview this week.

A superyacht is technically over 24 meters in length, and the cost to charter it can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars per week, depending on size and style. The more expensive like the 136m Flying Fox can cost 3 million euros per week.

It is not just the charter market that has been boosted by the virus. Superyacht brokerage sales also saw a record increase, according to Boat Pro, Boat International’s market information system.

When the first wave of the pandemic struck in early 2020, activity practically ceased – ships stopped selling and production of boats in shipyards came to a halt.

But buyers returned in droves last summer, so the second half of 2020 saw more sales than any other six-month period. This trend accelerated in 2021, which blew all previous years out of the water. In the first half of the year, 344 superyachts changed hands in the brokerage market, far ahead of previous years.

“People who were previously hesitant to enter the industry have realized that yachting was the perfect way of seclusion for them and their families,” said Campbell.

As superyachts carry huge private stores for food and other essentials, their presence can provide a significant boost to local economies. Visitors to superyachts spend up to five times more than the average hotel guest in Greece, according to a pre-pandemic study by the Greek Marinas Association.

“Unlike cruise ships, where people tend to eat and spend on board, part of the fun of yachting is discovering new bars and restaurants. There are also mooring fees, which directly benefit local economies, and the sale of goods and services, ”said Campbell.

Olga Milioni, a yacht agent based in Mykonos, a Greek island favored by superyachts, also highlighted the financial benefits they bring.

“Lobsters, premium fish, flowers, plus limousine services and VIP reservations on the islands, where they can spend € 10,000 just on drinks,” she said.

“Others asked for a really expensive bag. . . or bottles of champagne and custom labeled luggage ”, while someone else“ heard a DJ playing at a club and asked him to do a private show on their yacht ”.

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