So You Want to Start a Yacht Charter Business!?!?
Combining entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for yachting
Starting a yacht charter business sounds appealing - spending your days on a luxury yacht, cruising to exotic locales, and hanging out with "the rich and famous". While there are many benefits to running your own business, especially when it coincides with your passion of boating, in the end, it's still a job - and requires a lot of work. A lot!
In addition to the basic principles which apply to establishing and running any business, there are issues impacting the world of boating which also need to be factored in to your decisions.
Who's your customer, and what do they want?
Research your customer requirements first - then get a boat that suits their needs.
If you want to appeal to companies for corporate meetings at sea, you'll need a high-end yacht with enough cabins to accommodate all guests (and their families) plus a large board-room type set-up. Those requirements may be vastly different that a family who wants to spend the day celebrating Grandma's 90th birthday, or a couple who want complete privacy for a romantic honeymoon get-away. This isn't an industry where "build it and they will come". Your boat needs to meet the exact requirements of your customers or they'll take their business elsewhere.
Different jurisdictions have different requirements for charter boats and charter businesses. Crossing borders can complicate matters. Make sure you know where your potential clientele want to travel, as that may also define specifications for your vessel.
What's your niche?
Make sure there's some uniquely defining characteristic or service that you can provide that will set you apart from your competition. There are thousands of yachts of every size and class available for charter around the world. And they all claim to be "the best". What characteristic will compel people to select your charter from all possible options?
What's your background?
If you're new to the industry (as I was when I established Arkadaslik Yachting), develop a mentoring partnership with an established, trust-worthy business in the beginning. Take advantage of all they have to share - their expertise, network of contacts, customer base, etc. so you don't spend all your time "reinventing the wheel". Pro-actively expand your network of trusted business advisors to include areas such as hospitality, tourism, catering, agriculture and import/export trading. You'll be surprised at how often you need their advice.
Who will be working for you?
Hire qualified and experienced crew and treat them well. Your boat's crew will make / break the success of your venture. All hell can break loose on the boat, but a good crew will deal with the issues in a professional manner, keeping your passengers safe and happy.
What's your budget?
Boats are virtual money pits and expenses aren't limited to the up-front cost. In addition to the initial purchase and all your "normal business" expenses, you have to factor in costs for routine maintenance, emergency maintenance, insurance (don't skimp on insurance), berthing fees, licensing, transit logs and harbour master formalities, crew salaries and insurance, laundry, uniforms, etc. And, you need a contingency fund because all of these need to be paid, whether you have bookings or not.
Running a yachting business is a rewarding way to earn a living, but it is a lot of hard work. Best wishes if you choose to pursue the venture. Happy sailing!