Demand for private jets, private yachts and private villas are expected to soar in the wake of the COVID-19 travel crisis, a panel of experts have told Traveller Made’s luxury travel designer community.
Last week speakers representing VistaJet, a member of Traveller Made’s Private Skies division, and Neo Yachting, a member of Private Seas, shared their views and current trends as part of the latest segment on the Traveller Made Virtual World Tour 2020, a new initiative following the postponement of the annual Essence of Luxury show.
VistaJet has a fleet of 70 long-range jets covering the globe. Working on a subscription model, it is able to offer Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) customers unparalleled service, providing “flights anywhere, at any time,” said Matteo Atti, Executive VP of Marketing. He said it has been “vital” for the charter aircraft operator to remain operational during the C19 crisis.
Off the back of its highest ever quarter in Q1 2020, as countries began to implement travel bans and restrictions in March, Atti said VistaJet saw customers moving from East to West keen to return to their home sanctuaries in Europe from Asia. By April customer numbers had “dramatically crashed” by 90%, however, in the past few weeks, VistaJet has witnessed a rebound with private aviation up 20 to 30%.
“People who can fly are starting to look at solutions to getting their normal life back.”
“Typically, private jet bookings are made 10 days to three weeks in advance. But we’re receiving a lot of questions on what we are able to do now,” he said.
Atti said VistaJet customers are wanting to fly between major destinations. Demand for Asia repatriation to Europe and the US and inter-Asia flights were up.
He highlighted that the advantage of charter aircraft over commercial flights is “utmost privacy, reduced contact, zero strangers” and minimal contact with airport officials. Private jets are able to fly into smaller international and private airports over bigger hubs, which aside from fewer crowds means faster door-to-door service. Private jet customers can bypass the traditional airport experience inside 20 minutes or access VIP routing in public airports.
Atti said that uncertainty still remains in Europe regarding quarantine rules and guidelines and “no clear roadmap” out of the current predicament, but a large number of airports are open, meaning VistaJet is able to find a way to get customers to their destinations.
He added that jet charter requests currently take between a week to 10 days to be authorised as a result of tighter documentation controls due to COVID-19.
Yacht charters offer a home away from home experience
In Traveller Made’s Private Seas arm, Neo Yachting’s Director Nicolas Valin said that after a long period of “everything stopping” there has been a slight increase in new enquiries over the past fortnight.
Neo Yachting acts as a broker and has access to 15 yachts in-agency (and access to hoards more), mainly in the Mediterranean. Valin said that there is a trend in previously booked clients postponing their charters until later in the season or delaying until 2021.
Magali Puppo, Charter Broker for Neo Yachting, said the core benefit of a yacht charter is that it provides a private space that is “safe and away from the crowd and virus”.
“It’s like being in your own house with your family. A very safe place.”
Crew to guest ratio on 85-foot yachts is around 1:2 and yachts have strict sanitary measures in place.
“The big advantage of a yacht is all the amenities and activities – good food, watersports, relaxation, swimming and diving, without having to go ashore and be in potential contact with the virus,” Puppo added.
Private villas offering COVID-free stays
The Traveller Made virtual seminar also covered Private Places – a collection of ultra-luxury villas and houses around the globe.
One of the panel members, Paolo Macchiaroli, Founder/CEO of My Private Villas, said that all owners in his portfolio had altered their policies to offer guests increased flexibility when booking.
“Everyone wants to secure guests but to also protect them, offering credit for next month or next year. We took a family booking and included a special cancellation clause in case the government doesn’t allow them to travel so that they will receive a full refund should they need to cancel for a COVID-19 related reason”.
Macchiaroli said he is receiving requests from all around the world for guests keen to travel abroad, but the trend for bookings has been domestic.
“Requests for Italian villas from Italians, Swiss chalets from Swiss residents.”
“Since the end of April, we had almost no requests, two to three per day instead of loads and loads. By the end of April, we were receiving a lot of requests. Like a private yacht, a private villa is a safe place to be with friends.”
Macchiaroli suggested that Traveller Made members may be able to attain discounts during the lull in business and that properties should guarantee that strict sanitation guidelines have been adopted. That includes assurances that resorts are “COVID-free” and that staff have spent weeks in quarantine – a trend that is likely to surge in popularity among affluent travellers.
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