Yachts have always been recognised as a luxury lifestyle accessory and are oftentimes associated with luxury experiences such as on-sea celebrations, travelling to exotic beachy locations, or even just a day of leisure on a docked yacht. And while many prefer to own one, chartering a yacht is said to be one of the best and most efficient ways to enjoy all the experiences on board without the hassle of upkeep.
The demand for charter yachts has increased significantly over the last few years thanks to factors like a booming tourism sector, rising disposable income, and people’s inclination towards recreational and leisure activities. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated the value of the charter yacht industry at US $6.5 billion; this value has been expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2% between 2020 and 2027. According to the report, this growth is expected due to a growing preference among travellers for luxury maritime tourism and personalised services. Additionally, recreational boating activities have been a driving factor for the industry along with a significant contribution from corporate tourism activities as well.
Indian charter yacht industry
While the global industry booms, the charter yacht industry in India too has seen quite a rise in the past couple of years. More specifically, post Covid, yachting became the hot new leisure activity in India. And while many argue that owning a yacht has more or less the same benefits, chartering a yacht is more common, with online portals as well as offline bookings. The latter may be substantially high, but given the digital age we live in, there has been an increase in online portals which have proved to be a beneficial platform across the globe. Offering easy bookings and cancellations, and simplified methods to check availability have all attracted a higher number of customers.
So what led to the rise in the charter yacht industry?
Industry experts, Gautama Dutta – Chief Representative of Burgess Yachts India, Anju Dutta – Owner, Marine Solutions and Chetan Rane – Founder and Director, Fortune India Sailing, all agree that the pandemic had a significant effect on the sudden boom experienced by the charter yacht industry. “We, as Indians are social people.” says Anju Dutta. “We like to go out, be it with family or friends, we’re always looking for new things to do. And as people travel abroad and get the boating experience, they want to do it again, which has led to more people opting for charter yachts in India.”
Buying vs renting
It’s not uncommon for people to wonder which is better: buying or renting a yacht. While each has their own justification for picking either, we believe that both buying and renting have their own pros and cons. Anju Dutta draws a clever analogy of owning and renting a luxury car. “If you’re on holiday of course you should rent a luxury car to take you around. But it’s also nice to have your own personal car that you can keep in your garage and take out whenever you feel like it. It’s the same with a yacht. You can rent one when on holiday, but it’s nice to own one too!”
While some feel that both owning and renting a yacht are more or less of the same experience, Gautama Dutta argues that they’re both very different experiences. “People usually rent a yacht when they go for a more wholesome experience like a trip with family or friends. I personally would love to own a yacht (I have my own yacht), but not everyone wants to deal with the stress and cost of maintaining a yacht.” Right enough, factors such as passion for sailing or taking the yacht out frequently, affordability and accessibility to a marina have seldom confused enthusiasts on whether owning or renting a yacht is the best possible decision. The matter of cost is, however, always at the forefront. It’s not just the cost of buying a yacht but maintenance as well.
Regardless of the size of the yacht, maintaining a yacht usually costs as much as 10 per cent of the sticker price per annum. That is excluding the cost of full-time staff including a captain, engineers, stewards and stewardesses, chefs, and deckhands many of which are extremely important for larger yachts. You also don’t have to worry about storing your boat in the offseason, saving yourself the cost and stress that comes from storing and docking your boat.
Chartering, on the other hand, is usually a hassle-free experience offering more or less of the same benefits. Sacrificing complete ownership and some degree of freedom, yacht rentals still provide the same vacationing experience in the open sea. In addition to the above, chartering a yacht is a commitment-free investment which occasionally comes with a refundable deposit. A captain and crew are usually included with renting a boat, letting you customize your entire experience based off of your crew needs.
While day trips are popular for the weekends, there’s no denying the growing popularity of destination yachts. Ditching planes, trains and any other form of transport, people are now beginning to travel by sea calling it a more wholesome experience. Post Covid, our leaders agree, is when people have begun to charter yachts for a more memorable, exotic holiday with their loved ones.
Goa is by far one of the most popular destinations in India for charter yacht holiday. In fact, Goa is the most popular destination for a holiday in India. Something about the quaint backwaters of this tiny state keep calling out to people. And while taking a flight or train seems like the most common and preferred route, yachting is a whole other experience being far away from the crowd surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Goa. While many prefer to dock by the beach and enjoy a barbeque, visiting the islands is a suggested option. The pristine islands are perfect for a quiet getaway to unwind by the Arabian Sea or indulge in activities like dolphin sighting, fishing and snorkelling.
Like Goa, Kerala’s backwaters are a real sight of beauty and boating in Kerala is on everyone’s to do list. So why not turn it into a yachting trip? It goes without saying that Alleppey is the most popular spot for boating in Kerala. Often referred to as the Venice of the East, Alleppey’s picture-perfect lagoons, mirror-still backwaters and serene beaches are what make it an ideal spot for a serene experience. Alleppey, which is home to thousands of houseboats, is the ideal place to spend the weekend drifting in its waterways while admiring the breath-taking beauty that this area has to offer. Indulge in freshly prepared fish and duck in the traditional manner. The Vembanad Lake, Kerala’s largest backwater, contains the Alleppey Backwaters.
Myanmar has a vast coastline stretching right from the Andaman Sea in the south up to the border near Bangladesh and the Mergui Archipelago is one of Asia-Pacific’s best-kept secrets. Boasting as many as 800 islands, yachting in the Mergui Archipelago is like visiting paradise on earth. An expansive stretch of uninhabited land with untouched mangrove forests and tropical jungles, coves and pristine beaches, this location is perfect for a secluded yacht vacation. The perfect getaway to escape modern-day life with no phone or Wi-Fi signal, though this destination is so exclusive visitors will need to arrange a permit. Scuba diving and snorkelling are here are some great ways to explore marine life with abundant fish life and undamaged corals.
A collection of remote archipelagos in the Bay of Bengal, Andaman is touted as one of the best exotic destinations in India with a prolific aquatic life and some of the best diving and fishing activities. The remote Similan Islands are filled with countless tropical beaches to choose from. A must, however, is the unusual towering karst of Phang Nga Bay. Aside from these, trips to islands such as Inglis, Sister, Passage, Brother, Barren, Narcondom, Little Andaman, Interview, Neil, Cinque, Henry, Lawrence and Button are all worth your while. One of the busiest beaches, Havelock Beach Number Seven also known as Radhanagar Beach is home to one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world that remains undamaged by human activity.
One of the most prominent yacht companies in the world, Burgess Yachts was founded back in 1975 by renowned solo ocean racer, Nigel Burgess. Operating in destinations across America, the Caribbean and Europe, Burgess Yachts has come to be recognised as a global leader in luxury yachts.
The Asia office was formally launched in 2015 with offices in Hong Kong, Phuket, Tokyo, Singapore and Mumbai as well as an ‘Asia Desk’ in Monaco. Gautama Dutta who was appointed a few years ago is responsible for operations in Mumbai, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Notably, the Asia team comprises very experienced Asian yachting professionals many of whom are able to converse with clients in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Hindi.
The company specialises in superyachts and megayachts only measuring 30m and above. Top put into perspective, “The smallest yacht at Burgess is bigger than the largest yacht in India,” Gautama Dutta points out. These can easily fit fifty to sixty people excluding the staff, although the official guest capacity remains at 12 people per yacht. “Every charter yacht in the Burgess fleet is unique, right from the design on the interiors to the amenities, watertoys and service provides. Based on a client’s requests and requirements, the yacht is prepared to ensure the best experience is enabled,” adds Gautama Dutta.
Speaking about the services and amenities included, Dutta adds, “We give our clients an exclusive 5-star experience. There’s a concierge that will pick you up and bring you to the yacht. On board, there’s a number of fascinating facilities. There is a cinema, gymnasium, swimming pools, open deck, and some even come with a helipad. You also have a full staff which includes Michelin Star chefs that will cook anything you need.”
While Burgess specialises in yacht charter, the process of chartering a yacht goes well beyond the booking stage. “Compiling out intelligence, we can provide guests with the best itineraries to suit their preferences as well as organise private jet transfers, on board celebrations, luxury boat hire, restaurant bookings, spa treatments, fitness instruction and more.”
Established in 2003, Marine Solutions is recognised among one of the earliest leisure yachting companies in India and is tied up exclusively with premier international brands in the boating industry in India. Some of these include elegant Italian models like Ferretti Yachts, Custom Line, American Sea Ray™ sports boats and sports cruisers, Kawasaki’s Jetski™ and many more.
Anju Dutta talks about Marine Solutions and its sister company Ocean Air’s association with brokering and chartering yachts. “Marine Solution is concerned with yacht retail and ownership while our sister company, Ocean Air specialises in chartering yachts. Usually many of the boats sold by Marine Solutions are returned to Ocean Air for charter because the owners don’t use it as much.”
Although Mumbai based, Marine Solutions has offices in Goa and Calcutta along with a fully functional marina, the Britona Yacht Station in Goa which provides berthing, fresh water, electricity and services to a large number of yachts in Panjim, Goa as well as yacht services at moorings off Gateway of India, Bombay and at Eden Garden in Kolkata.
“People usually prefer day cruises. A lot of them want to just go see the lighthouse or go across to Alibaug for the day. That is in Mumbai. In Goa, we usually get requests to cruise in the river, visit the Grand Island for snorkelling or even have a beach barbeque, which is a very popular request, especially in Goa.”