Driven by the creative response of shipowners and builders to the pandemic, as well as the changing desires of travellers, the yachting industry is in the midst of a revolution. Yacht broker Goolets is leading the transformation of yacht charters from a niche segment for the ultra-rich to unique vacation experiences for a growing segment of travellers.
Starting out as fans of schooner-type ships (traditional two-masted wooden sailing ships common in the eastern Mediterranean), Alenka and Mitja Mirtic started their business in Slovenia with no experience in the industry but having fallen in love with the product and thinking that ‘it would provide a unique travel experience. Starting from scratch in 2005, with almost zero experience in trade and marketing and no start-up capital, the idea was to introduce the world to little-known schooner-type vessels.
“Yachting is now only accessible to a privileged percent of the population”, says Mitja Mirtivs, CEO and Founder of Goolets. “Since the start of COVID-19, people have become more scared and worried about health and mass tourism, helping to make private charters more attractive. However, it is a class of new, larger luxury yachts that are expanding the business and have proven to be a big hit in the market as they offer exceptional value for money.
Goolets began by seeking to introduce the traditional schooner to the world
According to Mirtic, yacht chartering grew in the years leading up to the pandemic as people realized the opportunities to become more involved in their vacation, to escape the crowds and the ability to adapt it to their individual needs. He says, however, that when they started their business, schooner charting was “the wild west of the yacht,” and one of their goals was to elevate the experience and provide better service. They remain one of the few agencies to have separate sales and customer service teams. This way they can offer brokers who know each yacht and other experts who know the destinations. They help organize details and personalize elements of the experience such as activities, food and shore arrangements.
From 2018, Goolets realized that the same opportunities and attractions existed in yacht mapping, so they began to expand into a wider market. Yet while renting yachts is a bit easier than schooners, Mirtic likens it to going from swimming in a lake to the Atlantic Ocean. With their experience in Croatia and Turkey and a model of customer service 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 accelerated by a new type of vessel. Croatian shipbuilders have a long history in their wooden ships, but about 15 years ago they started to convert to larger steel ships. They grew from ships typically 65 to 100 feet in length to newer ships up to 165 feet, but these were considered small cruise ships with a capacity of 40 or more passengers.
More recently, some innovative shipbuilders have started moving away from large 20-cabin ships for smaller ships with the same quality of equipment but with only six or seven cabins. Unlike large cruise ships, these new ships can be marketed as yachts. Additionally, while the cabin charter industry has been crippled during the pandemic, a few other mini-cruise owners have sought opportunities in yachts. They rebuilt the ships by reducing from 20 cabins to 10, improving the ships and investing in services. It was a 100% mindset change for the industry in Croatia.
Goolets founders Alenka and Mitja Mirtic brought the new ships to market
“The skepticism at the beginning 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 value for money for build and charter is very high compared to the ‘normal’ charter market and I think the demand will continue to grow.
Goolets brought this new product to market and it was an instant hit. The company points out that there are hardly any ships in the world similar to this new product. They believe the success comes from combining the attractions of yacht charters combined with the value the new ship size presents for travelers seeking those vacation experiences.
“We are about to create a whole new yachting segment from the ground up,” says Mirtic. “I think that in the future this type of yacht will develop further and the potential is immense. Luxury yachting is no longer just for showing off, it is also becoming an attractive investment opportunity with great networking opportunities.
Goolets is also exploring new opportunities for the future of yacht charter, 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 ship for themselves and charter it at other times to offset costs or even possibly make a profit from operating their ship.
Running the business as a family business and applying the company mantra ‘Life is good’, they foresee an exciting future as the yacht charter business transforms.
For more information about Goolets and yacht charter, please visit the company at www.goolets.net.
Yacht charter avoids the crowds and offers the opportunity to create bespoke experiences
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.