Source: Ocean Life magazine
IanMalouf isanAustralian entrepreneur with a passion for the luxury yachting lifestyle. Having experienced chartering as a client and guest for many years, in 2015 he acquired a 54-metre Baglietto, naming her M/Y Mischief. Although he sees the yacht as a source of personal and family enjoyment, Malouf treats Mischief as a business, and expects to see her returning income through charter activity. Frustrated with what he felt were outdated practices and a lack of embracing technology, Malouf set about challenging the status quo of luxury yacht charter with his newly launched website “Ahoy Club“.
The website’s focus is on automation and speed, rather than traditional charter booking practices. Luxury services often focus on the notion of a highly personal experience with dedicated one-on-one attention, so it will be interesting to see how those on both sides of the transaction respond to this radical new digital approach. Ocean met with Malouf to find out why he feels it is time to call “anchors up” on how we approach charter services.
As an owner, what was it that inspired you to get involved in the business side of yachting, and in particular, chartering?:
Having owned and chartered yachts all my adult life, I have seen a lot of change over the years. The advancement in the actual construction, effective volume and technology on board super-yachts is mind blowing. But in contrast, and unlike that in other industries, technology has not been transferred to enhance the charter process, and provide for a better customer experience. Currently, I believe that booking a super-yacht charter is inefficient, time consuming task, with a narrowed selection of availability to the wider audience. The charter process is much harder than it needs to be for all involved, and this in turn affects the fees charged. I wanted to solve this and make the experience of chartering a yacht quicker, more informative, more fun and a more cost-effective process, so charterers can make the right informed decision for themselves.
From your experiences as a current charter yacht owner and charterer, what did you find lacking on both sides of the transaction?
It is not so much what was lacking, more what could be improved, in particular, the timing and selection process. There are a lot of processes that are needlessly manual when chartering a yacht.
With Ahoy Club, will you be replacing or competing with charter managers and retail brokers?
Ahoy Club is the friend of charter managers and brokers alike, giving options and better charter management tools to boost the productivity and utilisation of the yachts they manage. The current back-and-fourth dance that takes place between charter managers and brokers, with the charterer wedged somewhere in between, takes time and has its difficulties. Ahoy Club streamlines the entire process for all involved.
Ahoy Club definitely wants to work with the retail brokers, albeit, we believe it is time they curbed their fees. Some retail brokers have long relationships with their clients; we are not here to break that relationship. We are here to enhance it and add better value to the process.
Ahoy Club offers part of its modest four percent commission to the retail brokers who wish to book through the platform on behalf of their clients. This takes extensive work and time out of the broker’s current process and offers their client a far more cost-effective experience than before. I believe this type of cooperation and lower costs sill bring more charterers to the market, plus it will make owners more open to extending the current summer seasons that are being adopted.
Do you plan to have yacht owner clients coming directly to you to list their yachts for charter?
Yes. Worldwide, the overwhelming majority of yachts are self-managed. Ahoy Club is a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform, and owners have control of their yacht’s schedule and pricing. They can post a “special offer” whenever it suits them to get better utilisation of their yacht, for example, the Empty Voyage program if a yacht is returning to homeport or next embarkation. Ahoy Club also gives owners the ability to offer their superyachts for day trips, which is largely uncommon for the megayachts in dominant regions like the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Our “Yotswap” feature gives owners the exclusive opportunity to enjoy endless summers, without the inevitable running costs accumulated when sailing their yachts across the world between seasons. We also accept most major credit cards worldwide, as well as the regular electronic transfer.
Which target market do you think will be the strongest for you in terms of geographical location?
The Mediterranean region absolutely holds the largest charter audience in the world, followed by the Caribbean. The aim with our easy-to-use platform is to dramatically increase the awareness of opportunity in emerging regions as well.
How can technology be used to reduce fees associated with charter bookings?
That is the entire foundation of the Ahoy Club and it is exactly what we deliver: more choice, more value, more time, more freedom, for less. This is underwritten by wrapping the contracts and all other complexities in a seamless charter booking process. The technology enables direct communication between charterers and the owners once we eliminate the build-up of multiple hands getting caught up in the process. this means charterers could be saving as much as 20 percent in brokerage and VAT every year they book through Ahoy Club.