With over 50 years in the yachting industry combined, Amanda Armstrong and Neil Hornsby, who are long-standing MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association members, discuss the superyacht industry and how their roles within MYBA have influenced their decisions on setting up their own superyacht company for the luxury travellers of today.
What are the three key tasks of MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association as a whole?
Founded in 1984, MYBA is the pillar of today’s charter and sales activity regulation. It endeavours to maintain the highest quality. Over the years the association has given life to a significantly important charter agreement and to an electronic memorandum of agreement that still leads the current transactions of the industry. These documents are a pluriannual investment of many professionals discussing the best legal and commercial points to make sure charterers or sales clients see their interests protected in line with the present times and regulations.
Secondly, MYBA manages its relationship with other industry associations to ensure support or harmonisation of complementary initiatives regarding charter, sales and yacht operations, spanning from charter shows to sales open days as well as a presence at international maritime organisms to comply at best with maritime rules.
Lastly, MYBA is making sure that a code of ethics is followed and respected by its members and more than ever, that a commitment to sustainability is promoted and followed in the association.
You launched Yomira in 2021, what was your vision with the company? Why did you decide to take this step?
Being long-standing MYBA members has allowed us to experience the changes in the yachting arena. In the last five years or so these changes have really accelerated, with a new dynamic of clients entering the market in search of a far more bespoke and curated yachting journey – less of the prescriptive ‘yacht first’ model, more the need for incredible lifestyle experiences around which the yacht is the key ingredient.
Also, while the industry has consolidated, there is still space for smaller, experienced operators to deliver a very high level of personal service that clients for this top-end luxury product rightly expect. We also felt there was an increasing demand for a more transparent, open approach to superyachting, dare we say by challenging some of the stereotypical perceptions of the industry, but ultimately our main goal is to give clients more fulfilment from their yachting experience.
With over 50 years in the charter business and experiencing it through the eyes of MYBA too, between us we felt it was time to put this to good use and so Yomira, essentially meaning ‘your ocean’, was born.
How do you see the needs and aspirations of high-end travel clients changing?
As mentioned, the whole subject of fully ‘curated’ yachting experiences is becoming much more significant in order to meet clients’ lifestyle requirements, whether it’s spending valuable time with family and friends; recharging with a spa and detox programme; satisfying the adrenaline junkies with some serious water sports; discovering off-grid untouched regions of the world, or teaching the kids more about the ocean and the environment, our job is to deliver that. This often combines closely with land-based specialists so the line between ‘traditional’ yachting as such and shore-side experiences is becoming increasingly intertwined.
As co-founders of your own yacht company, you take a very personal approach with your clients, why do you think this is so important?
Yachting can be quite daunting, particularly to those who haven’t tried it before, so a high degree of handholding, education and reassurance is always required from us, whether that’s from a technical level with some of the contractual arrangements, for example, the complexities of the planning process and travel logistics, or even some of the special idiosyncrasies of being aboard the yacht.
It should also be remembered that superyacht charters are an incredibly high-value item, certainly the highest in the travel sector, and it’s crucial to give the best personal approach to clients in order to fully recognise this. As an owner-operated business, we like to think of ourselves like a Saville Row tailor where you might spend top dollar for a fine suit, but the service was impeccable, it feels great to wear and lasts for years!
You mentioned in previous interviews that instead of charter brokers you consider yourselves to be charter designers, can you elaborate on this?
To us this term is more appropriate to give a better insight into our roles and reflect the completely bespoke nature of each charter we organise. A good MYBA broker will actively orchestrate the whole process from beginning to end – a skill often lost on many who think that it is simply a question of providing availability of yachts and sending through the contract.
Charterers are extremely savvy and know the market well and often have chartered numerous times. When we put together a yacht charter, it is always so much more than simply advising on which yacht might suit the client best. We focus on their exact motivations for chartering and create a completely unique itinerary to match this, not simply on the yacht so ‘designer’ is far more appropriate in our opinion.
How do you see the luxury charter industry evolving over the next decade, especially in regard to the experimental side of yachting?
We have already seen an evolution of yachts, that now offer a comprehensive array of facilities, enabling them to cruise further and be more self-sufficient (in terms of range, hybrid fuel/electric engines, storage onboard, vast choice of toys etc). These changes, alongside clients’ desire to do more ‘bucket list’ activities and lifestyle vacations, will see charters becoming longer in length and increasingly innovative, aided by the sophisticated satellite communications, meaning a speedy return to the office isn’t quite so essential.
It will also allow more of a 360-degree experience, such as venturing further afield (not the usual hot spots), immersion in local cultures with more shoreside excursions, and complementing yachting trips with wellness programmes. Of course, there will be an evolution with the ever-increasing desire to get involved in the eco angle of the ocean, which is very much the forefront and centre of the world we live in today.
What are the biggest challenges that the luxury charter industry is having to face today, and what is being done to overcome them?
The hardest challenge is certainly the ‘green’ one, as superyachts by their very nature are not very eco-friendly. Huge efforts from designers and architects to encourage more electric propulsion, eco-friendly or sustainable materials during the build and for the older yachts, much more is being done to convert their not so friendly eco-credentials to more palatable ones.
Crew are very proactive now in using ocean-friendly products on the yachts, reducing the use of plastic on board by having water filtration systems and refillable guest products. We also ensure that clients can easily offset their carbon footprint for their charters.
The other challenge is increasing bureaucracy, especially with taxation, the myriad of different VAT regimes is mind-boggling across the Mediterranean, often leaving owners and charterers perplexed so we (MYBA) need to lobby hard for a level playing field with a common tax rate, so clients know exactly where they stand and each country has a fair chance of benefitting the significant revenue gained from visiting superyachts.
Over the years there has been a greater interest in Ocean Conservation projects and Green Yachting initiatives, how is the luxury charter industry adapting to this?
There are positive winds of change throughout the whole yachting industry. At MYBA, Tim Morley sits at the head of the environmental committee which serves as a very important position especially at present, as the targets for CO2 reduction require urgent action; and clients are already influenced more and more by awareness of climate-related greenhouse gasses (GHG).
On our own corporate level, we are actively supporting coral regeneration projects in the Caribbean and French Polynesia as well as offsetting fuel consumption during charters with our partners at Yacht Carbon Offset and providing marine education programmes for clients if they would like to get involved during their charter. Small steps but hopefully making a positive difference to the planet.
Together you have almost 50 years of collective experience, what would be your joint highlight in your careers?
It must be launching Yomira. A very emotive and hugely satisfying moment – in which passion and commitment never wavers. It’s your own child essentially, watching it grow, develop and adapt to an ever-changing exciting industry that we are lucky enough to be a part of. And of course, being (very long-standing!) individual members of MYBA, (32 years for Neil and 20 years for Amanda) and now also corporate MYBA members with Yomira.
About MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association
Founded in 1984, MYBA is an internationally renowned professional organisation involved at many levels within the superyacht industry. Members of MYBA are widely represented in all fields of brokerage, charter, operational and technical management as well as accompanying the construction of large yachts.
In the past two decades, MYBA has played a key role in the immeasurable growth of the superyacht industry and its role has gained more significance. MYBA now works closely with government organisations, the International Maritime Organisation, licensed marine underwriters, insurance companies and lawyers as well as other bodies/organisations.
In a future where there is a strong appetite for yacht ownership worldwide, MYBA’s main goal is to change the consumer view of the yachting industry continuing to lead the conversation. It is the owner and administrator of YACHTFOLIO, the online tool that changed the way luxury yacht charter professionals do business, and it owns and organises the very successful MYBA Charter Show, one of the most important events of the B2B yachting calendar.
For more information, visit myba-association.com.
All imagery supplied by MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association