New Vessels are Driving a Transformation in Yacht Chartering
Driven by the creative response of shipowners and builders to the pandemic, along with the changing desires of travelers, the yachting industry is undergoing a revolution. Yachting broker Goolets is leading the transformation moving yacht charters from a niche segment for the ultra-wealthy to unique vacation experiences for a growing segment of travelers.
Starting as fans of gulet-type ships (traditional two-masted wooden sailing ships common in the Eastern Mediterranean), Alenka and Mitja Mirtic launched their business in Slovenia with no experience in the industry but having fallen in love with the product and believing it would offer a unique travel experience. Started from scratch in 2005, with almost zero experience in business and marketing and no founding capital, the idea was to present gulet-type ships, which were not well known, to the world.
“Yachting is no longer available only to a privileged one percent of the population,” says Mitja Mirtic, CEO and Founder of Goolets. “Since COVID-19 started, people have become more scared and worried about health and mass tourism, helping to make private charters more interesting. However, it is a class of new larger luxury yachts that are expanding the business and have proven to be a great hit in the market as they provide exceptional value for money.”
Goolets started by seeking to present the traditional gulet to the world
According to Mirtic, yacht chartering was growing in the years before the pandemic as people realized the opportunities to get more involved in their vacation, escape the crowds, and the ability to tailor it to their individual needs. He says however when they launched their business gulets charting was “the wild west of yacht,” and one of their goals was to elevate the experience and provide better service. They remain one of the few agencies with separate sales and customer service teams. That way they can offer brokers that know each yacht and other experts that know the destinations. They help organize details and customize the experience elements such as activities, food, and arrangements on shore.
Starting in 2018, Goolets realized that the same opportunities and attractions existed in yacht charting so they began expanding into a broader market. Yet while chartering yachts is a bit easier than gulets, Mirtic compares it to moving from swimming in a lake to the Atlantic Ocean. Using their experience in Croatia and Turkey and a customer service model they are proud of, they have expanded to other destinations ranging from Greece, Italy, and Spain to the Maldives and the Caribbean.
The transformation of yacht chartering, however, is being accelerated by a new type of vessel. Croatian shipbuilders have a long history in their wooden ships, but about 15 years ago began transforming into larger, steel vessels. They went from vessels typically measuring 65 to 100 feet to new vessels up to 165 feet, but these were considered small cruise ships with a capacity of 40 or more passengers.
More recently a few innovative shipbuilders started moving back from the bigger ships with 20 cabins to smaller ships with the same high quality of fitting but with just six or seven cabins. Unlike the larger cruise ships, these new vessels can be marketed as yachts. Further, while the cabin charter industry was brought to a standstill during the pandemic, a few more mini-cruise owners sought opportunities in yachts. They rebuilt the ships reducing 20 cabins to 10, upgrading the vessels, and investing in services. It was a 100 percent change in mindset for the industry in Croatia.
Founders Alenka and Mitja Mirtic of Goolets brought the new vessels to market
“The skepticism at the start was high, but the result was amazing,” says Mirtic. “The demand was huge and now more and more ships like this are being built. Their price-performance to build and charter is very high in regard to the ‘normal’ charter market and I believe the demand will continue to grow.”
Goolets brought this new product to the market and it was an instant success. The company points out that there are virtually no ships in the world that are similar to this new product. They believe the success is coming from the combination of the attractions of yacht charters combined with the value the new size of vessel presents for travelers looking for these vacation experiences.
“We are on a verge of a brand new yachting segment being created from zero,” says Mirtic. “I think in the future this type of yacht will grow even more and the potential is immense. Luxury yachting is no longer just for showing off, it is also becoming an interesting investment opportunity with great networking possibilities.”
Goolets is also exploring new opportunities for the future of yacht chartering including investment opportunities. They believe people will see the possibilities instead of buying or building a yacht to invest in a vessel as part of a program. They would use the vessel for themselves and charter it at other times offsetting costs or even possibly making a profit from the operation of their vessel.
Running the company as a family business and applying the company’s mantra of “Life is Good,” they foresee an exciting future as the yacht chartering business transforms.
For more information about Goolets and yacht chartering please visit the company at www.goolets.net.
Yacht chartering avoids the crowds and provides the opportunity to create tailor-made experiences
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.