A thriving new marketplace for instant pay-to-play boating will shake-up how we go afloat. Toby Hodges explains the four different types of yachting renting platforms
You click on an app on your phone, search for a yacht to sail, a RIB to play on or a motorboat to stay on overnight, and you’re handed the keys that same day. You may not yet know it, but these kind of instant, accessible yacht renting experiences are already available.
People increasingly seek easily accessible, hassle-free, pay-to-play experiences or memberships rather than own products. To an increasing number of younger sailors, the traditional route into ownership, running costs and marina fees seems archaic and completely nonsensical.
A host of new companies has recently exploded onto the marine scene to help address this growing desire to rent, borrow, or share boats. These also appeal to those who own boats yet still seek something or somewhere different to try, or alternatively want to make some money back in rent while their yacht sits idle.
The more I looked into the yacht renting options available, the more I realised just how much I had already been missing over the last couple of years.
How it works
The plethora of start-ups in this sector are founded on the same notion: that boating is too expensive and has a reputation of serving only the wealthy. These accommodation/rental/sharing schemes are devised to help open up the availability and attractiveness of boating and offer potential income to existing boat owners.
The marine industry in general is increasingly under threat from a declining number of boat buyers. It is well documented that, while the baby boomer generation may still be buying, and buying increasingly larger yachts, such owners are not being replaced.
When it comes to boats, cars, houses or phones, the millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 2000) is less likely to buy anything. Instead they seek instant services, quick thrills and the ability to share their experiences easily – an economy that has exploded thanks to services such as Airbnb and Uber.
“There is a whole new generation who wouldn’t think of buying a boat, but they are using the sharing economy all the time and are hungry for new experiences,” explains Matt Ovenden, founder of Borrow a Boat, one of the rapidly growing peer-to-peer (P2P) yacht renting rental platforms. Experiences, he says, are the new ownership.
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These new marine-based rental sites use similar marketplace platforms to Airbnb, in that they list boats available in a variety of locations together with prices and filters to narrow your search.
The renter then contacts the boat owner through the site to arrange the terms and details and can soon be staying aboard or sailing a different boat in different waters every trip or holiday. They use booking processes that are quick, interactive and familiar to the digital generation.
It’s the boat owner’s responsibility to insure the craft for this purpose and to code it according to their country’s regulations. As with Airbnb, a contract is agreed directly between the boat owner and the renter, using the platform as the medium.
And in a similar way to the search engines and websites we have become accustomed to relying on, such as Amazon, Tripadvisor and booking.com, ratings and reviews are also a key criterion to these yacht renting marketplaces.
Alex Katsomitros, from Click&Boat, one of the largest new P2P boating platforms, estimates this form of rental is up to 35% cheaper than traditional yacht charter. “P2P boating turns what used to be a mainstream, run-of-the-mill tourism service into a personalised experience with a whiff of adventure and originality,” he maintains.
Boataffair’s founder, Adrian Walker, describes the trend as an ‘experience economy’. “That’s what millennials are looking for. They are not necessarily even renting, but they want to share their experiences, to have a fantastic time with friends or family.” Their companies offer tangible appeal to the masses who consider boating to be too expensive, elitist or too difficult.
“The new generation of owners is very different,” Beneteau’s general manager Gianguido Girotti agrees. “They are used to buying everything online. So boat clubs, charter and fractional ownership are very important.” Groupe Beneteau, often seen as leading the way in the production yacht sector, recently purchased Band of Boats, a charter and community platform offering boats to suit all levels of budgets.
So what’s on offer? We’ve broken down this plethora of new marine marketplace companies into four sectors.