The Med’s New Hot Spot

With a four­fold in­crease in char­ter yachts since 2013, Spain’s Balearic Isles are boom­ing.

Yachts International - - News -

The boom­ing balearic isles have seen a four­fold in­crease in char­Ter yachTs since 2013, wiTh clienTs al­ready clam­or­ing for more This sum­mer.

Bar­bara Müller, sit­ting in her Palma de Mal­lorca of­fice in the heart of Spain’s Balearic Isles, used to be frus­trated—pretty much from early spring straight through the end of au­tumn.

“You have no idea how of­ten I had to turn away clients and say we don’t have 50-me­ter boats, we don’t have 60-me­ter boats, we don’t have any boats left for Au­gust,” says Müller, a char­ter bro­ker and man­ager with Ocean In­de­pen­dence.

Count­less clients from Amer­ica, Europe and beyond wanted to be where she was, ex­plor­ing the cap­i­tal city’s cul­ture and vis­it­ing the is­land’s Miche­lin­starred restau­rants be­fore cruis­ing to neigh­bor­ing Menorca’s beaches and Ibiza’s pulse-pound­ing dis­cothe­ques. But as re­cently as a few years ago, the whole of the Balearics ar­chi­pel­ago had only a few dozen li­censed char­ter yachts 65 feet or longer. Many of them were good qual­ity, but older. And none were su­pery­acht length.

Oh, how things have evolved—and fast. Be­cause of re­cent changes in tax rules and li­cens­ing pro­ce­dures, there fi­nally are more crewed yachts in the Balearics to meet the surg­ing char­ter de­mand. The to­tal num­ber of yachts with char­ter li­censes quadru­pled from 31 in 2013 to a whop­ping 125 for 2016, Palma-based bro­kers say. Some are the same size and cal­iber as yachts that char­ter in the South of France and Italy, long the top des­ti­na­tions in the West Mediter­ranean.

In fact, a num­ber of yachts that base in France and Italy are get­ting their Span­ish char­ter li­censes to be able to meet Balearics de­mand. Camper & Nichol­sons In­ter­na­tional, for in­stance, has 203-foot (61.8-me­ter) VSY Roma now of­fer­ing book­ings in Spain as well as in other West Med lo­cales. The same is true of 163-foot (49.9-me­ter) Benetti Plat­inum, which is in the Burgess fleet, along with 137-foot (41.8-me­ter) Hol­land Jacht­bouw This is Us, which Ocean In­de­pen­dence says will char­ter in the Balearics dur­ing the first part of this sum­mer be­fore mov­ing to Corsica, Sar­dinia and South­ern Italy later in the sea­son.

Such yachts are likely to see even more de­mand than in past years be­cause of world events, char­ter man­agers say.

“With the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, the de­mand is now higher in Spain,” Müller says. Des­ti­na­tions such as Turkey have de­clined in pop­u­lar­ity.

Karen Martensen at the Burgess of­fice in Palma adds: “You never know what will hap­pen in this world to­day, but the main point about the Balearics is that it’s very safe. These are is­lands. If some­one wants to do a se­ri­ous rob­bery or some­thing, it’s not like the South of France. You will be caught on the next plane or the next ferry.”

Burgess is en­cour­ag­ing even more yacht own­ers to get their Span­ish char­ter li­censes, to be able to re­spond to in­creas­ing Balearics de­mand, Martensen says. Müller says Ocean In­de­pen­dence sees the trend con­tin­u­ing, too: “I think in the fu­ture, al­most all the boats in the West Med will have the Span­ish char­ter li­cense.”

And char­ter clients who have vis­ited the Balearics dur­ing the past few years are al­ready ex­press­ing in­ter­est in re­turn­ing, Martensen says. Once peo­ple see what the is­lands are like, they want more.

“I had Aus­tralian clients last year who, based on what they had read, wanted to do most of their char­ter in Ibiza,” Martensen says. “Now they say that if they come back again, they want to leave more time for Mal­lorca.”

One rea­son for the re­turn vis­its is that shops, eater­ies and other busi­nesses in the Balearics, par­tic­u­larly on Mal­lorca, are now cater­ing to the high-end clients, Martensen says. Hav­ing sur­vived the global eco­nomic cri­sis and, more re­cently, see­ing the surge in char­ter ac­tiv­ity, the lo­cals are tai­lor­ing their of­fer­ings to ap­peal to high-net-worth va­ca­tion­ers—some­thing that’s rarely true in up-and-com­ing des­ti­na­tions.

“They know these yachts are not like big cruise ships,” Martensen says. “We vis­ited the pri­vate jet ter­mi­nal in Mal­lorca last week, and it’s so smooth for the guests to come in. They can pass through and no­body will see them. The lo­cal peo­ple have opened up to this. I’ve lived in France. I’ve lived in Italy. Now, all these lit­tle places in the Balearics, you say, ‘Wow.’”

For char­ter clients vis­it­ing Spain for the first time, some bro­kers rec­om­mend 10- to 14-day char­ters that com­bine the Balearics with the main­land, and Barcelona in par­tic­u­lar. The cruis­ing time from one re­gion to the other is about six hours, Martensen says, and yachts can make the tran­sit overnight, while guests sleep.

From there, the itin­er­ary can be per­son­al­ized. “Ev­ery is­land is dif­fer­ent,” Martensen says. “Ibiza is for the nightlife, the club­bing, see­ing and be­ing seen. Mal­lorca has a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel. You can see a clas­si­cal con­cert or visit a vine­yard or go hik­ing with a beau­ti­ful view over­look­ing the Mediter­ranean. Then you go to Menorca, and it’s the most beau­ti­ful, crys­tal­clear wa­ter you will ever see.”

Müller agrees, and is thrilled that she can now ac­com­mo­date most clients who call.

“There is some­thing for ev­ery­body,” she says, “and now that we have these boats, peo­ple can have the boats they want in­stead of only the boats they can get.”

top left: Parts of the Balearic Isles are beloved for their pic­turesque beaches. fac­ing page top, be­low: The Al­loy Genevieve and the Benetti Plat­inum char­ter with Burgess.

Be­low: Even as char­ter be­comes more and more pop­u­lar in the Balearics, plenty of quiet spots can still be found.

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