Luxury Market Trends & Research

How has the Superyacht Industry Been Affected by the Pandemic?

Ahead of the Monaco Yacht Show, top experts and waterfront property specialists share insight into how the superyacht industry is recovering

With the Monaco Yacht Show returning from September 22-25, those in the superyacht industry are taking stock of how it has been affected by the pandemic—and their conclusions are resoundingly positive. While COVID-19 almost brought superyacht charters and sales to a standstill in 2020, recovery has been spectacularly rapid according to Jonathan Beckett, CEO of Burgess, one of the world’s largest yacht brokerages and charter management firms.

“In 2020, we were battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst, but in the past year we’ve seen an enormous increase in sales and new orders placed with shipyards,” says Beckett, who is planning to show eight boats in Monaco—vast beauties measuring well in excess of the 50 meters (150 ft) that define a superyacht. He adds that the firm is preparing for a winter charter season in the Caribbean as busy as the summer it enjoyed in the Mediterranean this year.

The C2 superyacht from Burgess
The C2 is one of eight superyachts Burgess will have on show in Monaco. Measuring 85.6 meters (280.8 ft), she was refitted in 2019 to include a main deck aft pool and a feature beach club, and can accommodate up to 31 guests.

“It has all been very surprising, as we were expecting a very rough time after the thin pickings of last year,” Beckett adds. He believes that 2021’s unexpectedly bullish recovery is due to the lifting of restrictions for Americans travelling to Europe. “Their presence has been vital for a good summer season.”

New Adaptations and Trends

A smarter, more digitally-focused approach towards marketing has become the name of the game for both superyacht brokers and their colleagues based in harbor and marina destinations. “Now we aim to reach clients directly in their pocket via their mobiles,” says Laurent Locchi, director of Miells, an established Monaco real estate agency based in the heart of Monte Carlo. And Beckett notes that Burgess has switched almost entirely to digital promotion following a “forensic” financial analysis of its business.

Cecil Wright & Partners, yacht brokers specializing in craft built in Northern Europe at the top end of the market, were well placed to communicate remotely with both clients and colleagues even before the pandemic, says co-founder Chris Cecil-Wright. “We’ve been using Skype since we set up the business,” he explains. “Our office can be anywhere from a hotel in Shanghai to a yacht in the Caribbean.”

The exterior of La Masquerade, a superyacht from Cecil-Wright & Partners
La Masquerade, one of the superyachts Cecil Wright & Partners will bring to Monaco, is described as a “true pedigree yacht” and boasts a sundeck unrivaled by almost any 55-meter (180 ft) yacht in the global fleet.

While Cecil-Wright acknowledges the hit that the charter side of the business took in 2020—“all the lights went out when lockdown hit”—he believes boat lovers who usually charter a craft are now more minded to buy one.

He says sales of pre-owned craft have also been strong, “because people now increasingly feel safest in the company of those they know, on their own yacht rather than one shared with others. That shift will make a dramatic difference to the industry in the long term.”

In 2020, we were preparing for the worst, but in the past year we’ve seen an enormous increase in sales and new orders—Jonathan Beckett

The Superyacht Industry and Real Estate

It’s been a good year for the real estate market in Mediterranean yachting meccas too, with Christie’s International Real Estate affiliates across Europe reporting brisk interest in waterfront properties.

“We made a good recovery from the pandemic earlier this year, but traditionally July and August are quiet, so we really welcome the energy the yacht show brings to the market in September,” Locchi explains.

A views over the pool of a villa in Sardinia
Set within a well-kept Mediterranean garden with an infinity-edge pool, this magnificent villa is on the market with Immobilsarda S.r.l. and boasts panoramic views across the Porto Cervo marina.

Thanks to the show, Monaco also sees an influx of high-quality clientele from principal markets such as Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, Locchi adds. “It offers us great opportunities to meet and network with a like-minded clientele. These people are usually also interested in renting as a way of getting to know Monaco. Then, once they know what they don’t want, they are ready to buy—and when rentals boom, sales tend to follow.”

Americans, who are not able to benefit from the significant tax advantages Monaco offers residents, tend to look away from Monte Carlo towards other yachting destinations in Europe for a home base. This is particularly the case in Sardinia, where Julia Bracco, head of sales at Immobilsarda S.r.l., says “we’ve seen many American families looking for waterfront properties, preferably with pontoons and not too far from the airport.”

The area has recently been the port of call for many a superyacht, she adds. “Yacht broker colleagues say they have not seen such a boom in business for 10 years.” And some of those on board are eyeing up a land base on Sardinia for the first time: “The island was considered very safe during COVID-19, because we have such a low-density population and kept infection levels under control.

“Clients are seeking properties close to the prestigious hotels they have visited and know well, and a home they can access with their tenders. In general, though, house hunters tend to be those looking to accommodate their day boats—craft of 15–25 meters (50–80 ft) they will use to go to Corsica and for other short trips.”

A view of Port Hercules harbor in Monaco
With views of Monaco’s harbor, as well as its Grand Prix circuit, this six-bedroom, six-bath apartment offers the opportunity to explore the very best of Monte Carlo’s lifestyle. It is available through Miells.

The summer procession across Europe from east to west often starts in Croatia, home to the world’s largest superyacht charter fleet. The long Dalmatian coast, dotted with pleasure islands, has long been a magnet for sailors. But now, says Ivan Kovačić, executive director of Remington Realty, those seeking a European land base can expect to face competition from increasing numbers of house hunters who do not necessarily own a boat.

“We see many who once just spent a few weeks here in summer now deciding to live here six months of the year,” he explains. “The pandemic has actually helped our business, because when plane travel was restricted it showcased how accessible Croatia is by car from central Europe.”

The Winter Season and a Yachting Safe Haven

As yachtsmen turn towards the Caribbean for the winter season, Justin White, head of sales at Anchor Antigua Realty, is hoping to accommodate those who may be discovering what Antigua and Barbuda have to offer for the first time. Those already in the know, he says, produced a huge real estate boom for the region earlier in the year.

“The pandemic has led to our greatest demand in real estate since before the 2008 financial crash,” he explains. “People have realized how much nicer it is to be locked down on a Caribbean island and a bright light has been shone on the lifestyle and opportunities Antigua has to offer, thanks to the increased numbers sailing into our deep-water port. It’s the ideal hub for provisioning before sailing off to St. Barthélemy or perhaps just our local offshore islands.”

Views down a staircase and large living room over the Adriatic sea in Croatia
This waterfront villa, on the market with Remington Realty, is situated in a luxury resort in Dalmatia and is only 10 minutes away from the local port, within easy reach of great restaurants and cafes, and offers access to a private beach.

While Antigua boasts a highly-developed yachting and hospitality infrastructure, and incentivizes long-term stays on the island with a top-notch citizenship program, it is still a developing island, says White, and so also has the advantage of virgin land being available for investment or construction.

Who’s interested? Everyone, he says. “People have come from all over the world during the pandemic—the U.S.A., U.K., Canada, France, Italy, and Russia. Even though we have restrictions from time to time as things change quickly, and are currently under a curfew, the market is so buoyant that even in August, our normally quiet season, all our hotels were full.”

Banner image: Yachts line Port Hercules harbor in Monaco. Getty Images