Source: Yacht Harbour
Ahoy Club, the new, UK-based startup, brainchild of Australian entrepreneur, Ian Malouf is set to launch in May to offer a simpler way to book yacht charters. Focused on cutting out redundant fees, speeding up the process and offering a larger inventory, Ahoy will launch just in time for the 2018 summer season.
Developed over the span of 3 years, the idea for Ahoy Club‘s platform came to Malouf during his 20+ years on the charter and owner side. “The chartering process is much harder and more expensive than it needs to be. I want to make the experience quicker, more informative and more fun.” said Malouf.
Set to launch in May, the digital platform will let users instantly search all available yachts for their trip, send a request to the owner with one tap and then confirm the charter with one click once the owner has accepted the booking. A contract is automatically generated and a 25% deposit processed through credit card.
Thanks to reduced broker fees that can be as low as 4% as opposed to today’s 20%, booking through Ahoy Club can amount to significant, 6-figure savings for its users on larger charters. Operating a full-time staff of concierge available 24/7, its digital and tech element is enhanced with human expertise.
“There are a lot of processes that are needlessly manual when chartering a yacht. We have automated all of these, and in doing so, give the charterers and the yacht owners real-time information they can act on and finalise quickly.” Malouf added.
Once the charter trip has been confirmed, there is an instant messaging facility within the platform to communicate with the captain and crew. Details of the booking are accessible at any time, including the charter agreement. Malouf also highlights the comprehensive guest profile page that can be filled out and updated at any time. If you go into the guests, you can add who is coming with you, what their name is, if they can swim, their dietary requirements, any disabilities everything. Further, the preferences sheet, which includes the choice of activities, cuisine, wine and more, can also be filled out directly on Ahoy Club. These forms can be completed in by all parties (and updated as many times as the guests wish) and negates the paper forms that would traditionally be written and scanned back by hand to the yacht or charter agent. The centralised automation of all the forms makes the entire process more efficient for the central agent, the yacht and the charter client.
Admitting that, at the beginning, there was some push back from the industry, Malouf has found that when the Ahoy Club team explains that the platform is designed to work with the charter agents, rather than instead of, the market has been much more receptive to the concept. Initially, people thought we were cutting them out, but were not. Once we sat down and spoke to them, we have had really great feedback. We are working with brokers and we respect them. They have the knowledge, they know the owners and they know the crew, so we want to work with them.
Initially, people thought we were cutting them out, but were not. Once we sat down and spoke to them, we have had really great feedback. We are working with brokers and we respect them. They have the knowledge, they know the owners and they know the crew, so we want to work with them.
The platform gives central agents a five per cent fee, and the Ahoy Club charges a four per cent commission and a three per cent software fee. The industry is used to 20-25 per cent commissions, says Malouf, So the yachts you see on our platform are going to be for less, and that is a big thing to get used to. Indeed, for those who have been interested in chartering a vessel, but are unsure of the best approach, Ahoy Club offers a method to explore the options out there in their own time. There are so many clients out there who dont know how to charter if they havent done it before. Its hard to just call a broker out of the blue.
Historically, online or app-based booking platforms for yachts have been discussed pejoratively, with traditional brokerage houses arguing that knowledge of the yachts and client relationships cannot be replicated online. Ahoy Club hopes to alleviate any of these concerns. The management is unparalleled. Its not an Airbnb where you just pick a room, book and everything is dropped. We support the client the whole way through, until the end of the charter with the follow-ups. We dont stop at the booking side. We keep the clients and we make the job easy for the industry.
In a time where almost all transactions are completed on a mobile device, and efficiency is the priority in all aspects of life, this platform will appeal to those who are interested in chartering, but are time-poor. Further, the fact that Ahoy Club is the brainchild of someone with intrinsic knowledge of the superyacht market, and a team who are dedicated to improving the charter market, Ahoy Club has the potential to be a game-changer.
“Ahoy 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 brokers current process and offers their client a far more cost-effective experience than before.”
Despite a rapidly developing technology worldwide, yachting has been historically slow to embrace new concepts, which has led to some startups rapidly developing in the space. Ahoy’s ambitious plans are, however, a new take on the space with a set of features that were previously never seen such as card payments and 3-click booking on larger yachts.
As owner of the 52-meter Baglietto, Mischief, Malouf is well placed to know yachts aren’t utilised year-round with complicated logistics to go along with them. A new feature Ahoy is building into the platform is Yotswap, which will allow owners to trade cruising time on their various yachts. A feature particularly useful with the Caribbean and Mediterranean pide.
“Ahoy Club is a peer-to- peer (P2P) platform” Malouf explains “and owners have control of their yachts 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.”