|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
September 1, 2019
September 15, 2019
It’s no secret that many of the world’s billionaires can be found cruising The Bahamas’ crystal clear waters in their massive, lavish superyachts. Glitterati from French luxury goods billionaire Bernard Arnault to director Steven Spielberg and Boston Red Sox owner and investor John W Henry have sailed around the islands.
The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s behemoth 533 ft Eclipse, complete with its own submarine and missile-defense system, has been sighted in Bahamian waters in recent years.
While owning one of these ocean-going wonders is accessible to only a few, there are many opportunities in The Bahamas to sample a slice of the luxury boating lifestyle through a range of high-end charters.
Luxury yacht charters
Island Yachts is one of several charter companies based in Nassau that specializes in providing luxury charter services for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clientele.
“We are a team of individuals comprised of yachting, charter and business backgrounds, and one that is not only professional, but also offers great insight into the intricacies of the yachting industry within The Bahamas,” explains Island Yachts’s charter broker Lee Lubbe.
Operating since February 2018 and headquartered at Bay Street Marina, the Bahamian registered company comprises a fleet of 10 yachts, ranging in size from 30 to 160 ft with crews of two for the smaller vessels and up to 11 on the larger yachts.
“We very much specialize in an all-inclusive luxurious day on the water,” says Lubbe. “We understand that many of our guests are not here for weeks on end and have the need for instant gratification. We pride ourselves in a last minute, expedient booking service with the same attention to detail and professionalism as if we had months to plan their perfect day onboard.”
While many who book with Island Yachts are wealthy tourists, the charter company also counts among its clients high-net-worth residents of New Providence’s exclusive communities, such as Albany and Lyford Cay, and Paradise Island’s Ocean Club Estates.
And with competition growing among new and established yacht charter firms throughout The Bahamas, Lubbe stresses the importance of “setting yourself apart.”
“We can honestly say that the yacht business is a naturally booming industry in The Bahamas,” she says. “The beauty here is enough to draw anyone in and, yes, that does make it an incredibly competitive industry to be in.
“It all comes down to expediency–the quicker you are able to meet your clients’ demands, the quicker charters are booked. We certainly go above and beyond the call of duty in our attention to detail and no demand is too high. This definitely sets you apart in the industry.”
With many luxury charters costing thousands of dollars, it is only natural that high-net-worth clients expect the absolute best experience.
“There is definitely an expectation by our clients once onboard,” says Lubbe. “Tailored service, knowledgeable crew, and exceptional food–our clients expect the ‘wow’ factor, not only from the natural beauty, but from the yacht itself. “The crew members are effectively the tour guides for the day and knowing as much as possible [about The Bahamas] is a great asset. Something as small as the captain knowing where the best snorkelling spots are, where you can find certain species or where to hide when it gets windy–these are absolutely critical.”
Lubbe says that there is also an “added pressure” on their chefs “as our clients are certainly accustomed to dining in restaurants helmed by world-renowned celebrity chefs.”
It is also essential to be in tune with every client’s personal needs. “We have to get to know as much about the client as possible in a few phone calls and emails,” says Lubbe. “We need to know if they have allergies; if they prefer a certain brand of wine, water or soft drink; and food is to be prepared to their exact specifications. Do they enjoy lounging, or are they active? Do they enjoy water sports and games? And then, naturally, this has to be relayed to the crew.”
Island Yachts offers several customized and all-inclusive excursions to destinations near to New Providence and throughout the Family Islands.
Some of their most popular trips include a cruise to Rose Island, located just three miles east of Paradise Island, where guests can swim with turtles, snorkel, jet-ski, or unwind at island-style beach bars Sandy Toes or Footprints, each on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach.
Another luxury cruise is to the Exumas. At North Exuma, guests can visit the iguanas at Allen’s Cay; stroll along the famous Sand Bar at Saddleback Cay; enjoy a “lazy river” paddleboard among the mangroves; and snorkel the sunken ruins of a C-46 plane at Norman’s Cay.
In South Exuma, guests can visit Big Major Cay’s celebrity swimming pigs; explore James Bond’s 007 Thunderball Grotto; have a delicious lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club; and swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay.
Island Yachts also offers a luxury day getaway to picturesque Harbour Island, home of the famous Pink Sand Beach and a favourite haunt of A-list celebrities. On the island, guests can
hop on a golf cart to explore historic Dunmore Town which is lined with chic boutiques and quaint shops selling everything from homemade jams and fresh-baked bread to local arts and crafts.
A growing luxury market
In recent years, the luxury yacht charter market has grown exponentially in The Bahamas, thanks mainly to social media.
“This is definitely a niche industry,” says Lubbe. “But social media has introduced many people to luxury yacht vacations, where in previous years, it was this secret billionaires club. TV reality shows such as Below Deck have also massively changed the industry. Now, everyone knows about it.”
She adds that the popularity of luxury yacht charters has opened the door for options “from a variety of sizes, types of vessels and trip duration, as well as budget.”
The sudden growth in luxury yacht charters also means good news for The Bahamas’ economy and tourism product.
“[Yacht charters] have an incredible economic life cycle. It starts with the charter licences which are compulsory for any yacht wanting to charter in The Bahamas,” says Lubbe. “Once the yacht is licensed, they are able to charter and a four per cent cruising tax is imposed on every foreign-flagged yacht charter in Bahamian waters. That’s a very welcome means of income for the government.”
Yachting also gives visitors to The Bahamas an opportunity to see untouched and remote islands and cays, many of which are only accessible by boat.
“Yacht charter guests and owners don’t see the likes of Over Yonder Cay, Musha Cay or Little Whale Cay from a hotel lounge chair, but they can from the aft deck of a yacht,” says Lubbe. “The resorts in Nassau should not define The Bahamas as a whole. We enjoy the opportunity to show guests the beauty of the Family Islands.”
The future of yachting
The yachting industry is developing and technology is playing a crucial role, particularly with efforts to reduce its carbon footprint on the environment.
“The ‘go green’ movement is starting to become much more visible in yachts,” says Lubbe. “Many yacht owners are looking at hybrid propulsion and how to have an eco-friendly boat that has a less environmental impact.”
She adds that improvements to navigational technology have been vital for yacht charters where in the past “paper charts made navigation risky” particularly when cruising around shallow reefs. “Modern navigation chart plotters have made many aware that The Bahamas is safe to visit, which is evident as we are seeing 200 to 300 ft yachts on a regular basis.”
The future of luxury yachting is bright, says Lubbe, adding: “For The Bahamas, the next five to 10 years is only going to get better. “You cannot quantify the spend that these yachts bring in. The global yacht industry is projected to reach $74.7 billion by 2020. It is absolutely beneficial for the Bahamian economy.”