Superyacht crowd heads to Greece to escape pandemic

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Like many superyacht enthusiasts, Johann Wedel-Wedelsborg spends the summer cruising around the Mediterranean Sea. This year he and his family chose Greece. There I enjoyed a few weeks of idyllic island tours on the 56-meter Onatarina.

“The fact that you can wake up alone in the bay, go to a small town and dine in a small taverna by the sea is unique. On the Côte d’Azur, it’s not the same. Just sailing along the coast, yachting And not as far away as Greece, ”said Wedell-Wedellsborg, owner of the Weco Shipping company associated with the Danish Royal Family.

He is one of the growing number of affluent families who have chosen to charter a superyacht in Greek waters this summer. It has given a coveted boost to the devastated holiday industry in the Aegean country, which has endured the summer devastated by natural disasters as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

“Yacht activity is skyrocketing in Greece,” said Stewart Campbell, editor-in-chief of Boat International, a superyacht magazine that tracked 834 superyachts in Greek waters in July. Registered 1,353 ships. “It’s much more advanced than the previous year,” he added.

A chartered vessel is like a floating hotel with the ability to control the environment and screen guests and staff against viruses, providing additional security © Anthony Venitis

One of the reasons for this increase is that Greece opened up to tourists earlier than the rest of the Mediterranean. Foreign visitors, including Americans who were unable to enter Europe due to pandemic restrictions, will be in Greece from mid-May as long as they are fully vaccinated or have a negative coronavirus test. I was welcomed.

The owner of the superyacht responded by dispatching the vessel to Greece. In Greece, I was convinced that I could get on the ship and get the attention of the charter.

Many of the world’s superyacht fleets spend six months in the Caribbean before moving to the Mediterranean in the European summer. Unlike sailboats, the majority are electric boats with professional crew.

“There have been a lot of demands in Greece this year… Our main problem is that we don’t have enough supplies. [to meet] Superyacht specialist Camper & Nicholsons Senior Charter Broker Barbara Dawson said.

Another reason for Greece’s popularity is that wealthy superyacht owners have decided it to be safer than other destinations due to its extensive coastline and over 220 inhabited islands. The chartered vessels are essentially floating luxury hotels, with the ability to monitor the environment and screen clients and staff for viruses to increase the level of security.

Superyachts boost the local economy as people dock frequently and visit this tavern-like bar and restaurant in Mykonos © Getty Images

Greece has been hit by a pandemic, but has not seen the same peaks as Italy, France and Spain. However, the number of new cases has increased rapidly over the past two months. “Greece was considered a prosperous and safe country during Covid-19, especially for American customers,” Dawson said.

The Golden Yacht, which builds and leases superyachts, is another beneficiary. “Last year the market was a real nightmare. This year, it is exactly the opposite. CEO John Dragnis said:

He goes on to say, “There are well-known clients, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities who charter yachts who think they are the safest choice for a pandemic vacation. “

Greece has been hit by forest fires this summer, especially around Evia and the capital Athens. The rise in infections has also resulted in restrictions at some popular destinations and blockages in the region.

However, this does not deter foreign tourists, with more than 6 million arrivals already this year. “The last time I saw these numbers was in 2019, before the pandemic,” Tourism Minister Harry Theo Harris said in a television interview this week.

Superyachts are technically over 24 meters in length and can cost tens of thousands to millions of dollars per week, depending on size and style. The more expensive ones, like the 136 million from Flying Fox, can cost 3 million euros per week.

The charter market is not the only place where virus-related impulses have been given. According to Boat Pro, Boat International’s market information system, superyacht brokerage sales also saw a record increase.

When the first wave of the pandemic struck in early 2020, business was essentially shut down – ships stopped selling and boat production at shipyards halted.

However, due to the large number of buyers who returned last summer, the second half of 2020 saw more sales than any other half. This trend accelerated in 2021 and all previous years were blown out of the water. In the first half of the year, 344 superyachts entered the brokerage market, well above the level of the previous year.

“People who were previously hesitant to enter this industry have found that yachts offer them and their families a perfect means of seclusion,” said Campbell.

Superyachts carry huge private stores for food and other essentials, but their presence can be a big boost to the local economy. Visitors to superyachts spend up to five times as much as the average guest at a Greek hotel, according to a pre-pandemic Greek Marina Association study.

“Unlike cruise ships, where people tend to eat and hang out on board, part of the joy of yachting is discovering new bars and restaurants. Mooring costs and amenities that directly benefit the local economy. There are also sales of services and services, ”explains Campbell.

Olga Millioni, a yacht agent based in Mykonos, a Greek island popular with the superyacht crowd, also highlighted the economic benefits they bring.

“For red shrimp, premium fish, flowers, limousine service and VIP reservations on the island, you can spend 10,000 euros just on drinks,” she said.

“Others wanted a very expensive bag… or a bottle of champagne and personalized luggage,” someone else said, “Listen to a DJ playing in a club and do a private show on a yacht. Pleaded.”

Video: How the tourism industry is recovering from a pandemic

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