Like many superyacht enthusiasts, Johan Wedell-Wedellsborg cruises the Mediterranean all summer. This year, he and his family chose Greece, where they enjoyed an idyllic trip around the island for weeks on O’Natalina, 56 million meters away.
“You can wake up in the bay alone, go to a small town, and eat in a tavern by the sea. This is unique. It’s different on the French Riviera. You just sail along the coast, where there are more yachts. , And not as isolated from the world as Greece,” said Wedell-Wedellsborg, owner of Weco Shipping, which has ties to the Danish royal family.
This summer, more and more wealthy families choose to rent super yachts in Greek waters, and he is one of them. This has provided much-needed impetus to the hard-hit holiday industry in the Aegean countries, as it has experienced summers that have been affected not only by the coronavirus pandemic but also by natural disasters.
“Yachting activity in Greece has surged,” said Stuart Campbell, editor-in-chief of the superyacht magazine Boat International, which tracked 834 superyachts in Greek waters in July, second only to 945 in France and 1,353 in Italy. “This is far ahead of previous years,” he added.
One of the reasons for the increase is that Greece opened to tourists earlier than other countries in the Mediterranean. Starting in mid-May, Greece welcomes foreign tourists, including Americans who cannot enter Europe due to pandemic restrictions, as long as they are fully vaccinated or tested negative for the coronavirus.
The response of superyacht owners is to drive their boats to Greece, where they know they will be able to enter and attract interest from charterers.
Most of the superyacht fleet in the world spends half a year in the Caribbean before heading to the Mediterranean to spend the European summer. The vast majority are motor boats with professional crews, not sailboats.
“This year we made a lot of demands on Greece… Our main problem is insufficient supply [to meet] Demand,” said Barbara Dawson, senior charter broker at Camper & Nicholsons, a superyacht expert.
Another reason for Greece’s popularity is that with its vast coastline and more than 220 inhabited islands, wealthy superyacht owners consider it safer than other destinations. The charter boat is essentially a floating luxury hotel, which can control the environment and screen guests and employees for virus infection, thereby providing additional security.
Greece has been affected by the pandemic, but it has not peaked like Italy, France or Spain-despite the sharp rise in new cases in the past two months. “Greece is considered a safe country and has performed well during Covid-19, especially for our American customers,” Dawson said.
Golden Yachts, which builds and leases superyachts, is another beneficiary. “Last year the market was absolutely a nightmare — this year was the complete opposite. Until the end of August, none of our 42 yachts were free for a day,” said CEO John Dragnis.
He continued: “Our well-known clients, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities are all renting our yachts, and they think it is the safest option for them to vacation during the pandemic.”
This summer, Greece suffered severe wildfires, especially around the island of Evia and the capital, Athens. The increase in the number of infections has also led to restrictions and local blockades in some popular destinations.
But this has not deterred foreign tourists, as more than 6 million people have arrived this year. “The last time we saw such numbers was before the 2019 pandemic,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said in a television interview this week.
Technically speaking, the length of a superyacht exceeds 24 million. Depending on the size and style, the cost of renting a superyacht ranges from tens of thousands of euros to millions of euros per week. The most expensive, such as 136 million flying foxes, may cost 3 million euros per week.
It’s not just the charter market that is driven by the virus. According to Boat Pro, the market intelligence system of Boat International, the sales of the super yacht brokerage business also achieved record-breaking growth.
When the first wave of pandemic broke out in early 2020, activity basically ceased-the sale of ships ceased, and the production of ships at shipyards ceased.
But buyers returned in large numbers last summer, and the result is that sales in the second half of 2020 surpassed any other six-month period. This trend accelerated in 2021, which has eliminated all previous years. In the first half of the year, 344 superyachts changed hands in the brokerage market, far exceeding previous years.
“People who were hesitant to enter the industry in the past realized that yachts provide the perfect way to isolate them and their families,” Campbell said.
Although super yachts carry a large amount of personal food and other necessities, their existence can provide a significant boost to the local economy. According to a pre-pandemic study conducted by the Hellenic Marinas Association, superyacht visitors spend five times more than ordinary hotel guests in Greece.
“Unlike cruise ships, where people tend to eat and spend on board, part of the pleasure of yachting is discovering new bars and restaurants. There are also mooring fees that directly benefit the local economy, as well as the sale of goods and services,” Campbell said.
Olga Milioni, a yacht broker in Mykonos, also emphasized the economic benefits they bring.
“Lobster, high-quality fish, flowers, as well as limousine service and VIP reservations on the island, where they can buy drinks for 10,000 euros,” she said.
“Others asked for a very expensive bag… or a custom-labeled champagne bottle and suitcase”, while others “heard a DJ playing in a club and asked him to do a private show on their yacht.”