NEW YORK - Ms Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal and her 30-strong team have had a busy summer booking private yachts for bankers, CEOs and other high flyers now liberated from the shackles of Covid-19 and willing to pay millions of dollars for week-long luxury cruises.
Bookings for superyachts through Fischer Travel Enterprises, where Ms Fischer-Rosenthal is president, have spiked 20 per cent this year from already high levels in 2021, a trend also seen by other companies chartering out luxury vessels that can come with all the frills from Michelin-starred cuisine to cinemas and submarines.
"Yacht charters are very popular because our clients want the privacy, security and flexibility that it gives them," Ms Fischer-Rosenthal said.
Her company charges US$150,000 (S$211,000) just to join its members-only service, through which superyachts can be chartered anywhere around the world.
"They want to have a luxurious experience."
Rich and famous
Americans are a growing client base, helping to fill gaps left by wealthy Russians who are not travelling as much due to restrictions following the invasion of Ukraine.
And it is not just the likes of Mr Elon Musk or Beyonce and Jay-Z hiring out these glitzy floating palaces. Mr Fischer-Rosenthal said a couple from the United States enjoyed their cruise in Greece and Turkey in July so much they booked another in Italy shortly after and invited friends along.
Fraser Yachts, which sells and manages superyachts, as well as arranges charters, booked nearly 500 private trips in the first half of 2022, according to marketing and business development director Mark Duncan.
Bookings are up 32 per cent from last year. Again, most of the growth is being driven by Americans, many of whom are renting for the first time, said Mr Duncan, who is based in Monaco.
Among the megayachts the company hires out is Wheels, a 75m vessel with a gym and nightclub.
The number of Americans with a net worth of between US$1 million and US$5 million grew 8 per cent in 2021 to more than 12 million households, while those worth US$25 million or more climbed 18 per cent, according to research firm Spectrem Group.
Post-Covid luxury travel boom
"Our clients are high-net worth individuals, running banks and hedge funds," Ms Fischer-Rosenthal said. "They've made a lot of money in the last few years. Now, they want to travel again and they want the best."
Customers are also getting younger, now averaging in their 50s rather than the 60-65 age bracket in the last two decades, Mr Duncan said. This year, about 35 per cent of Fraser's clients are new to yachting, compared with up to 15 per cent previously, he said.
Cruises involving several generations from the same family are also more popular.
"During the pandemic, people couldn't be with their families," Mr Duncan said. "Yachts can be big enough for all to be together. Unlike a home, you're not stuck in one place, and you can control the environment and test everyone for Covid if that's a concern."
The trend of families and friends travelling together is spurring demand for bigger superyachts.
Monaco-based Camper & Nicholsons International is seeing highest demand in the 50m to 60m range, said Ms Jacqui Lockhart, Europe head of charter management.
"They often know exactly what they want - a big yacht that's less than three years old," said Ms Lockhart, adding that the company's overall bookings are up as much as 30 per cent this year. "They know the style of yacht they want, from which shipbuilder even."
Octopus the opulent
One of the world's most expensive superyachts, available for charter through Camper & Nicholsons, is the 126m Octopus, which counts among its features two helipads, an elevator and basketball court.
Previously owned by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Octopus costs from US$2.2 million a week to rent. As many as 42 crew are on board to cater to a maximum of 12 guests.
It is booked for three weeks in Antarctica this winter, and Camper & Nicholsons said it is already fielding requests for month-long excursions next summer in the Mediterranean. BLOOMBERG