Charter in Vietnam: From Halong to Phu Quoc
Since becoming a dealer for leading European builders, Vietyacht has developed a thriving charter business dominated by Jeanneau motorboats, with Phu Quoc Island marking the company’s sixth base around Vietnam.
Words: Andrew Dembina Photos: Vietyacht
We’re sitting on a large sunpad on the bow of a Jeanneau NC14 in Halong Bay. With little strain on the boat’s twin Volvo Penta pod-engine propulsion, we’re leaving the large tourist and day-tripper cruise boats standing, as we enjoy a private charter with Vietyacht.
Cruising smoothly and quietly at 20 knots or so towards the limestone karsts and islets the area is famed for, the appeal of touring this region of northeast Vietnam on a 46ft motor yacht soon becomes apparent.
Later, at slower speeds along calm waters, we’re informed by one of the three crew of some of the ‘rock-alikes’ in the vicinity, as we pass amusingly nicknamed formations such as Cat Island and Chicken Islands, which look a little like the silhouette of two fowls kissing beaks.
Visitors can view the variety of islets at the core of this UNESCO World Heritage Site during a short cruise of 2-3 hours like ours. We also pass caves, a floating restaurant and a small kayak and watersports pontoon.
For a sunset cruise, passengers can opt for paddleboarding, kayaking or jet-ski activities, or a swim from an anchorage, while taking in the surrounds and enjoying a fruit platter and a soft drink or something a little stronger.
Day charters ranging up to 10 hours are available, with lunch or dinner options and activities such as cave visits, fishing and squid fishing, while staying on board for one or two nights can also be arranged. Overseas visitors, mostly from Japan, China, Korea, India and Europe, make up 20 per cent of VietyachtClub’s charter guests.
STRONG START IN HALONG
VietyachtClub’s fleet at Halong Bay offers a variety of mostly Jeanneau motor yachts including Merry Fisher and Velasco 43F models.
Halong Bay is one of its growing number of charter operations in Vietnam’s more popular coastal regions, where other brands of motor and sailing yachts are offered, also through sister brand Luxyacht.
Outside the laid-back Halong Bay dockside office is a small Vietsec PPC-hull sailing catamaran, one of eight that comprised Vietyacht founder Duc Thuan Nguyen’s original fleet. A keen sailor, he currently enjoys a Jeanneau Sunfast monohull when leisure time allows.
Given Covid-19 interruptions and complications, the progress of the Vietyacht dealership and charter business has been remarkably fast since it commenced in 2015 following Thuan’s previous focus on distributing marine equipment and components.
Vietyacht started representing Jeanneau from 2017, soon adding sister brand Prestige to the portfolio before Fountaine Pajot also joined the following year. Slovenia’s Alfastreet Marine, which produces hybrid and electric boats, is also part of Vietyacht’s offerings.
In 2019, after securing the three French brands, Thuan became the Vietnam dealer for Ferretti Yachts, Riva and Pershing of Italy’s Ferretti Group under a new company, Luxyacht. Two Rivas and a Ferretti Yachts 500 have been sold into the country.
To date, the sister dealerships have sold more than 60 new yachts, although Jeanneau is the most popular of all the brands and makes up most charter yachts in VietyachtClub.
Duc Thuan Nguyen
“When I started in the yachting business in Vietnam, the market was brand new. At that moment, there were no new imported yachts and no marinas or jetties for yachts,” recalls Thuan, who said a Jeanneau Leader 36 was the country’s first new imported yacht.
“At that time, clients were wondering if it was easier to buy a house or a supercar. They wondered about how to use a boat, where to put it, who would take care of it. That’s why I thought about establishing a yachting club to provide berths, maintenance, supply crew, essentially an A to Z service, so clients could just pay and play.”
SPREADING AROUND VIETNAM
As owners rarely had time to use yachts more than a one or two days a month, Thuan improved their financial return by operating charters on their yachts on free days, which led to VietyachtClub. The first charter base was in Halong, site of the company’s headquarters.
“In Halong Bay, there are about 500 large cruising boats, so we wanted to offer something more private,” Thuan says.
There are now VietyachtClub branches further down the coast in Thanh Hoa province, Danang and Nha Trang, plus Ho Chi Minh City, while this summer one more launched on Phu Quoc Island, off the country’s southwest coast.
“Those cover the main coastal areas for clients,” Thuan says. “Further locations will depend on whether demand increases.”
Despite more use during the Covid-19 pandemic – except for periods when being outdoors was not allowed – Vietyacht and Luxyacht owners and charter clients are not generally keen on staying aboard overnight.
“Halong Bay waters are quite smooth, so it’s comfortable to stay overnight, but Vietnamese clients prefer day trips,” says Thuan, who adds that one owner has converted one of their boat’s three cabins into a much-used office.
Like in many parts of the world, the pandemic led to greater interest in yachting in Vietnam, leading to more sales and charter demand, Thuan says. Brand-wise, he hopes to expand from the seven currently stocked brands to 10.
However, import and luxury goods tax, along with VAT, remain a factor. They currently add up to about 50 per cent for private-use purchases, with accumulative taxes at 20 per cent for boats bought to be chartered.
There are some interesting potential changes on the horizon. In the past couple of years, Thuan feels some good-quality local boat builders have emerged. “They’re doing well and some people are buying these to charter, so we’re looking into the quality of the best of these.”
Furthermore, real-estate developers have plans to build more marinas for owners and for visiting yachts, should the Vietnamese government relax restrictions for overseas-flagged vessels. “There are signals this will happen in the near future,” Thuan says.
“An international marina certificate was just issued at AnaMarina in Nha Trang, so we hope to see races from Hong Kong and Hainan Island to Nha Trang soon.”
VietyachtClub is ready and waiting to provide visitors – sailors or otherwise – with fun-filled motorboat charters in the country’s most scenic areas, whether it’s Nha Trang or many of the other tourist hot spots from Halong Bay in the northeast to Phu Quoc in the southwest.