Superyachts enjoy pandemic tailwinds while the rich seek zen at sea

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  • Lucrative global luxury boat industry is rapidly recovering
  • Chinese billionaire Ma highlights trend with Spanish cruise
  • Superyacht sales are rising as the wealthy seek peace on the water
  • “The pandemic has taught us how fragile life is”: CEO of the yacht builder

MADRID / BARCELONA, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – When Chinese billionaire Jack Ma took a trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca last month, there was much talk that it was his first overseas foray since a fallout in 2020 with regulators giving him had clipped the wings.

However, Ma’s sunny stint on his newly built 88-meter (289-ft) cruise ship Zen – valued at $ 200 million – also highlighted a global trend: the return of the superyacht.

As the number of billionaires grows and COVID-19 has increased incentives to avoid crowds, the multi-billion dollar global luxury boat industry is rapidly recovering from the near-paralysis at the beginning of the pandemic.

“2021 significantly outperforms all of the past 12 years,” said broker Fraser Yachts.

Sales of luxury ships over 30 meters (98 feet) in length rose over 8% in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019 before the pandemic, according to industry publication Superyacht Group.

The cost of a superyacht can range from $ 10 million used to $ 600 million new, industry figures show.

Over 200 new ones went on the water for the first time by September this year, compared to 165 in the same period in 2019, the Superyacht Group announced.

About 330 should be ready by 2023.

“Some have seen their ultra-rich friends who own yachts have a great time during the pandemic while locked up at home,” said Pepe Garcia, chairman of Spanish shipyard MB92, the world’s leading superyacht refit company.

“I think this phenomenon will continue for a few more years.”

The MB92 shipyard in Barcelona is busy with boats up to 180 meters in length. Around 1,000 workers paint, repair engines, and perform other maintenance for owners who want to prepare them for the year-end Caribbean season.

The company’s commercial director, Txema Rubio, said up to 10% of purchase value is spent on maintenance and overhauls annually.

And with the billionaires rising to 2,755 – 660 more than a year ago according to Forbes – money laundering is clearly happening, even as activists denounce the environmental impact of private yachts, jets and space travel.

‘YOU NEED EVERYTHING NOW’

The order backlog of the Italian yacht builder Ferretti exceeded 900 million euros (1.04 billion US dollars) from January to September, well above the full year 2019 of 691 million euros.

“There is a wonderful song by Duran Duran called ‘All you need is now'”, mused managing director Alberto Galassi. “The pandemic has taught us how fragile our lives are. Procrastination is no longer an option for those who can afford it.”

At Azimut Benetti, another Italian yacht builder, the order backlog tripled to EUR 1.2 billion by August compared to the previous year, with US customers driving demand.

“The real boom started last spring,” said CEO Marco Valle, adding that customers were also looking for larger boats.

The yachting sector is one of the few winners in the post-lockdown period. In contrast, only half of the large cruise ships had returned to the seas under strict anti-COVID measures by September, said the Cruise Lines International Association.

Despite fears of infection and additional COVID-related travel expenses, the appetite remains high.

The Spanish travel company Amadeus said the demand for cruises will increase for 2022.

Renting a superyacht is also an option – if you can afford it.

A week-long luxury charter for up to 12 passengers in Greece or Italy can cost anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 euros, two market sources said. Onboard facilities include spas, Michelin-class restaurants, water sports lessons, and fitness classes.

In another popular travel destination, Croatia, around 433,000 people enjoyed a Yacht Charter vacation by mid-October this year, 88% more than in 2020, according to the national tourism association.

The boom has many spin-offs.

The Refitter MB92 is aiming for expansion into the Middle East and America, while its neighbor in Barcelona, ​​Marina Port Vell, will build 23 new berths for superyachts.

The European mutual fund Squircle Capital has a stake in both companies and is drawn by the high margins and the development of the sector.

“We believe there is a very clear trend towards growth and transformation,” said its founder and director Jose Caireta.

($ 1 = 0.8678 euros)

Reporting by Corina Pons in Madrid, Joan Faus in Barcelona, ​​Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Igor Ilic in Zagreb; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Andrew Cawthorne

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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