While we are all yearning to get out there again, the Covid-19 pandemic has created some interesting trends when it comes to the world of luxury aviation and yachting. The obvious one, of course, is that many people are enjoying neither, instead sitting in front of yet another Zoom meeting or looking at photos on their phone of their 2019 holiday on board their yacht.
Commercial aircraft have been grounded — some for good — and it’s true that many top executives have discovered that they can operate more efficiently by conducting meetings online rather than flying halfway across the world.
Not all though, with private jets and charter flights actually providing a simpler and safer way to travel — albeit a more expensive one.
Has private jet travel been easier than commercial during the pandemic? Not necessarily, says Philip du Preez, general manager at ExecuJet in Cape Town.
“It’s a matter of having the correct procedures and approvals in place to be able to fly. As the managing agent of the owners’ asset, ExecuJet could respond with the necessary paperwork as required by the authorities, which made the process easier for private aircraft owners to travel. Strict health protocols and screening were put in place from the outset, not only onboard the aircraft but also from the point the passengers arrive.”
Du Preez says there has also been an increase in demand for charter flights, mainly because it reduces the time executives and contractors spend on procedures and awaiting connections, especially to get around in Africa. He says the heightened concern around the latest increase in Covid-19 cases is making the wealthy seek the relative isolation of private aviation to reduce their risk of exposure.
Isolation is something that has benefitted the luxury yacht market too. After all, where better to spend isolation than sat on the aft deck of a yacht off the coast of Mozambique or in the Mediterranean?
Miles Moorhouse, head of marketing at Fairline Yachts in the UK says he has seen three main trends in the market during the pandemic. First (and unsurprisingly), there are the owners who write off being able to use their boat completely, and just stay put. Second are the owners who are bringing their boat back to their home country so they can make use of it. Third — and the most interesting — are existing owners who are choosing to switch to a smaller boat closer to home, or alternatively, actually buy an additional yacht that they can use because they can’t get to their other yacht in the Med or the Caribbean.
In fact, far from seeing a significant decline in orders, Moorhouse says the market exploded in July, with order books running well into 2022. It followed a dire few months for the industry, but he says that many people decided they had had enough of lockdown and wanted to get out there and live life to the full.
“People are thinking, let’s enjoy our wealth while we still can,” he says, adding that a significant benefit of luxury yachts is that they allow you to remain isolated with only people who know.
That view is echoed by Derrick Levy, owner of Boating World in Cape Town. “Worldwide, there is a strong desire from owners to enjoy their boats because they can’t travel by air,” he says. The market for 30-50 foot yachts is particularly strong, but he says he has had a number of enquiries for long-haul boats as owners look to spend more time on board. He admits to having had a few orders cancelled, but his team has been busy throughout the pandemic with new orders coming in from customers not just in South Africa, but as far afield as Qatar.
Whether the wealthy choose to spend their time in their palatial homes, on a private jet, or socialising with their close friends on a luxury yacht, the pandemic has certainly made many think of how best to spend their time — something that is probably true for all of us, wealthy or not.