Hong Kong Rides Exciting Day and Overnight Charter Boom: 'Charter Issue' 2020
Hong Kong’s recent charter activity has been ‘insane’ according to a leading operator, with an enormous surge of people enjoying luxury yachts and the city’s remarkable scenery – and not only for day trips.
While those living in the likes of Thailand and Singapore have been unable to get out on the water for most of the second quarter of the year, Hong Kong’s yachting scene has never been so vibrant in spring, with the luxury charter market almost overwhelming its leading operators.
“The charter season in Hong Kong has been insane. I’ve never been so busy,” says Laura Verbrugge, a Charter Broker for Asiamarine and Fraser, whose sentiments are echoed by several other charter companies in the city.
“People love it right now,” she adds. “It’s like they’ve been rediscovering Hong Kong and the amazing beaches and islands we have here. We’ve also been lucky with the weather.”
Hong Kong addressed the impending Covid-19 situation earlier than most, announcing a closure of schools in late January and encouraging people to work from home, but the city never imposed a lockdown.
Unable to holiday abroad, people escaped the city on boats at every opportunity, resulting in a remarkable increase in overnight charters, formerly a rarity in Hong Kong.
“As people were not allowed to travel, they decided to try charters, many overnight. Families with kids booked for two, three, four or five nights, and they loved it,” says Verbrugge, who estimates overnight charters have made up 40 per cent of the company’s charter business in the Covid-19 era, compared to single-digit percentages in the past.
“Hong Kong is now a real charter market, with people who can afford HK$1 million for a one-week charter.”
Covid-19 may have prompted people to flee Hong Kong’s crowded urban areas to the solitude and sanctuary of the sea, but Verbrugge says the market had been gradually changing before this year, if slowly.
“Over the last three years, clients have been asking more for overnight charters. They’re also wanting a complete package. Before, they used to bring their own lunch or wine and organise themselves, but now they want everything organised.”
However, Verbrugge believes the city lacks enough superyachts to cater to demand, with a Sunseeker 131 and a Sanlorenzo SL106 among the larger local charter yachts.
“Its great business now, but we miss good superyachts here. Our own CA fleet is very busy and we sometimes have to find other yachts for our clients, but it’s not always easy to find luxury motor yachts with the appropriate crew.”
ISLANDS, BEACHES AND BOATING
Asiamarine’s day charters start from about US$3,000 for a sailing catamaran and almost double that for a luxury motor yacht. Over the past year, the company’s central agency list has been boosted by a Sunseeker Predator 74 and the 99ft Lady Lorraine, a Turkey-built sailing yacht with a day charter capacity of 35.
Other CAs include the purple-hulled Numarine 78 Hardtop, Numarine 62 Flybridge, Absolute 50 and Pershing 50 motor yachts, and a Leopard 48 sailing catamaran.
“The Numarine yachts have everything including an outdoor cinema and great crews who have been with the boats for a few years. People also love the Sunseeker, which is a fantastic new boat and the opening sunroof is just amazing,” Verbrugge says.
“Lady Lorraine is a rare product, unique in Hong Kong for this type of yacht and size. She’s absolutely stunning and very popular, with lots of toys including a trampoline, kayaks, fishing gear and so on.”
Lamma Island, Po Toi and Sai Kung are among popular destinations for day trips, while Double Haven is a favourite for longer journeys.
Asiamarine’s sample itineraries include the Ninepin islands off Clearwater Bay for a swim and exploring caves, then Millionaire’s Bay (Nam Fung Wan) in Sai Kung Country Park for lunch, swimming, beach time and wakesurfing, before cruising back to Central at sunset.
A sample three-day, two-night trip includes the Ninepins, lunch at a local seafood restaurant on High Island, then overnight at Double Haven on day one. Day two includes Sai Kung’s Tai Long and Long Ke beaches and the night in Millionaire’s Bay, before a morning cruise of the Basalt and Bluff islands in the UNESCO Global Geopark, and back to Central.
Verbrugge says a personal, tailored service has resulted in strong client loyalty, and that she keeps some secret itineraries and reserves some unique experiences for her VIP clients.
“Our clients trust us and our professionalism. We know them well, what they need, what they like, and we’re dedicated to them and their experience every time. Our full-time crew have been with us for a long time, so they also remember our clients and their habits, which makes a huge difference,” she says.
“We offer a real charter service, with five-star hospitality, expert crew, tailor-made itineraries, flexible timings and arrangements for special occasions.”
Yachts and service aside, Verbrugge says she genuinely enjoys seeing how much guests enjoy themselves on trips, long or short.
“They see how good it is to be on the water, cruising and totally escaping from their routine. They love waking up to a sunrise on a remote island in Sai Kung with only the sound of the sea, really feeling like they’re on holiday. They’re also rediscovering the many faces of Hong Kong, especially its incredible islands and beaches.”
RIDING THE CHARTER WAVE
NextWave Charters is one of Hong Kong’s biggest charter companies with a selection of more than 50 yachts ranging from a 22ft Heyday wakeboat to a Sunseeker 131 Yacht, which charters from over US$30,000 per day.
NextWave is the central agent for the Sunseeker 131, Hong Kong’s largest charter yacht, while new additions to the company’s CA fleet over the past year include a 72ft Sunseeker, a New Ocean 88 and the Heyday.
Part of NextWave Yachting, the charter division offers a huge diversity of boats in terms of price and style, from the hugely popular wooden Chinese junks starting at less than US$1,000 per day to houseboats, sailing boats and motor yachts including NextWave’s own 65ft purpose-built Island party boat.
Popular destinations for day-charter clients include Sai Kung, Cheung Chau and the Soko Islands, and Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay on the south of Hong Kong Island. However, Frankie Chau, NextWave’s Managing Director, says more people have been booking overnight trips, with Double Haven and Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung among the favourite places to stay.
“We’ve been so busy this year,” Chau says. “Although most of our charter bookings are day trips, there has been a growing demand for overnight charter this year. Clients are enjoying exploring more remote locations in Hong Kong and spending the night onboard.”
The NextWave Island is a purpose-built party boat for up to 60 guests at anchor
NextWave is also the go-to company for water toys in Hong Kong where it’s the dealer for a huge number of brands including JetSurf, Seabob, Lift, Belassi, Aquaglide, Zapata, JetXtender, Jetovator, Red Shark Bikes, Seabreacher and Oxoon.
“Rental of water toys is our number one charter request. Having a great selection of toys makes every trip so much more fun and memorable. We have big slides, ocean pools, Seabobs, paddleboards, kayaks, jetskis, and all sorts of inflatables and floaties,” says Chau, who adds that NextWave can also can provide certified life guards among the crew for extra safety and peace of mind for family trips with children.
NextWave also has a lot of experience creating tailored charter packages and special onboard events from children’s birthday parties to wedding after-parties, and even whisky-tasting events and productlaunch parties.
“Everything is possible,” Chau says. “We can offer special experiences, such as exploring remote locations or organising highend dinner evenings in a beautifully decorated house boat. We have a huge range of boats and our staff know how to accommodate special requests and occasions.”
With one of the biggest selection of boats for charter in Hong Kong and definitely the largest selection of water toys, NextWave is in a good position to ride the new wave of charter activity sweeping the city and says the demand is set to continue for a couple more months at least.
“We expect there to be a lot of charters this summer, as most Hong Kongers still won’t be travelling abroad much due to the Covid-19 situation, so many people will take boat trips to satisfy their desire to travel.”
The original article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below:
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Yacht Style has released Issue 54 (July-August), its Charter Issue for 2020. Flying Fox, the world's largest charter yacht, stars on the front cover of the 208-page magazine, as the 136m megayacht prepares to return to Asia later this year.