An exclusive interview with the President of the Greek Yachting Association, Michael Skoulikidis, about the challenges the year 2020 brought onto the GYA and about the currently running Virtual Boat Show displaying some of the worlds most beautiful Greek charter yachts; as well as the 2021 ‘live’ Mediterranean Yacht Show in Greece, we all look forward to in April 2021.
2020 is a very particular year and it has brought numerous challenges to all of us. One of the most important changes in the yachting industry that the various world-wide restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic brought on, was the inability to continue with live yacht shows that we are accustomed to. How did you come to the decision to create an online, virtual boat show?
2020 caused almost all live yacht shows to be cancelled or postponed but it didn’t completely halt the requests for yacht charters. Clients were quick to understand that a yacht charter was one of the safest ways to enjoy a vacation despite the unprecedented circumstances. It was still possible for them to spend quality time in an environment that they could control, to a large extent, as our industry was quick to respond to the challenge by setting its own, strict protocols in place (disinfections before and after each charter, extensive testing of the crew, avoidance of high traffic areas). When it was possible for clients to reach the embarkation point, many of them were happy to find their way back on board. This meant that there was a real need for CAs, brokers and clients to have access to up-to-date information about yachts that were either new to the market or existing ones that they may not have had the opportunity to inspect. So our decision was driven by a demand for details that could no longer be acquired first hand and by the need to create a bridge that could effectively connect 2019 with 2021.
How many yachts are currently listed/present at the show and what was the response from the owners/captain of the participating yachts when approached about the virtual show?
82 yachts are currently listed at the virtual show and the fact is that owners, captains and CAs all embraced this initiative when we approached them.
All yachts have a great presentation with photography and excellent videos for visitors to view. Were there any challenges that you have encountered during the organisation of the online show in getting all the visual material put together?
The greatest challenge was ensuring that the presentation of the yachts was homogeneous and that everyone involved was a “fair player”. Many yachts already possessed their own material in terms of videos and, understandably, some of it was of exceptional quality. However, using it would have created an unfair advantage for some as well as making side by side comparisons difficult. So, we decided to use one videographer for all yachts listed, and the duration of the videos was determined by the L.O.A.
What response have you had since the launch in September and how many registered visitors have viewed the show?
The response has been excellent. The virtual show, to which only professionals have access, was well received from day one and already counts visits from close to 1000 yacht brokers. It has fast become an important tool of the trade and feedback shows that, in some cases, it works even better than an in-person visit as it allows charter professionals to share valuable details with clients and make solid comparisons. The human factor such as crew chemistry and skills, which are always of great importance, may be missing but the knowledge and insights of an experienced broker are there to cover that gap.
Do you believe that virtual shows will continue even after the pandemic is over in some way or another? They do seem to be a great reference for brokers seeking and viewing charter yachts in Greece even outside the ‘boat show season’.
It wasn’t exactly in our plans to host a virtual show but, now that it has come to life, the general consensus is that the virtual show should continue to exist in parallel with the actual show. It has proved to be an amazing tool and we are extremely proud that we were the first to present a virtual charter show to an international audience. The MEDYS is the largest charter show in the world, in terms of the number of participating yachts and their cumulative length, and we are delighted to add another first to our tally with the virtual charter show.
The next ‘live’ show is planned for April 22-25, 2021. What is your projection for the future and is the organisation underway?
We have the know-how and the organizational structure that will allow us to proceed swiftly when we decide to press the “go” button but preparations are not underway at the moment. We are adopting a ‘watch and wait’ approach as we have concerns regarding the travel restrictions and regulations that may affect the plans of foreign brokers. In previous years, it was important for our international visitors to book flights well in advance but the current situation is much different. So we will wait, see how matters develop over the next few weeks and provide an update in good time. The approval of vaccines seems to be fast approaching and we are optimistic about being able to stage a safe and productive show.
How will the April show be different from those that were held pre-pandemic?
That really depends on the evolution of the pandemic which we are monitoring closely. Whatever that may be, we believe that social distancing and hygiene measures are here to stay and we are planning accordingly. The parameters for gatherings and parties will also be examined in the near future and our decisions will be made based, first and foremost, on the safety and well-being of all attendees.
What are you expecting from 2021 when it comes to Greek charter and the Mediterranean summer charter season?
The Mediterranean is always the place to be in summer and Greece, in particular, is the definition of yachting heaven. Favourable weather, safe seas, thousands of islands, long stretches of coastline, an abundance of historical sites and monuments, and mouth-watering cuisine, make it a destination like no other. If you factor in the growing awareness that a yacht charter is one of the safest ways to vacation and that air travel will most likely become easier, we expect and strongly believe that 2021 will be a much better year for Greek yachting.