A side from the minor inconvenience of a lack of tourism, Phase III heralded a return to ‘normality’ for recreational boating - including charter. Provided boat hire companies conformed to certain criteria of safety and hygiene, they were able to get back on the water and back in business. But, just how easy is a ‘new normal’ afloat?
Pete and Roo Lucas have been at the helm of classic yacht charter company, Bonnie Lass Charters, for five years, and are based in Puerto Soller. The duo are viewing this coronavirus ‘reset’ with refreshing optimism. “They say within every cloud is a silver lining and certainly, for those lucky enough to enjoy Majorca this year, it is a pure privilege to see the island as it must have been 40 years ago,” says Roo. “We have a strong following of local clientele living on the island and, in some ways, this has been an ideal time to build on this. However, we are currently limited to a maximum of nine guests on each boat, 75% capacity, and our recent enquiries have been from groups of families and friends wishing to reunite after lockdown. With the majority of these parties consisting of three or four groups, we have regretfully been unable to accommodate their requests.”
Roo continues: “Again, we have a strong core of repeat clients from the UK, Sweden, Germany and the USA, who have told us they are simply dreaming of being back in Majorca. However, globally, 2020 is proving to be a very turbulent year. The current two-week quarantine rules are a big deterrent for our UK clients, and many are looking at staycations this year as an alternative option. Travel from the USA is particularly complex, and sadly we have a lot of guests who have had to postpone their travel itineraries and wedding plans as a rbovsult of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Roo finishes: “We sincerely hope that Majorca will be able to open up, and safely stay open, from July onwards. It is inevitable that it will be very different from the bumper years of 2018-9, but we are hopeful that the season will extend until late October. We work closely with a lot of local hotels and have a great relationship with the coastal restaurants in our area. This year, of all years, it will be vitally important for communities and local businesses to look after and support each other.”
Kiwi Mallorca, offering licence-free boats in the southwest, has a similar buoyant outlook. Commercial Manager, Farina Streil, says: “We remain optimistic for the upcoming 2020 season and are ready to welcome our guests according to the given regulations. Our international customers are, of course, not yet on the island, but we, and they, hope that the airport will open soon and quarantine will be lifted. Most of them will be coming to visit this year, although we also have some really scared clients who would rather spend their holidays in their home country. With regards to our Spanish customers, we are happy to take care of them, but this mainly takes place on weekends as most of them are working.”
Víctor Cardiel, Manager of licence-free specialists Embark Boats based in Santa Ponsa, agrees that the local market isn’t quite as lucrative as one might imagine: “I changed my marketing strategy, trying to focus on locals until we can reopen the borders, but it is a bit difficult to get clients. Most of the local people are working Monday to Friday, and the rest are not working at all due to the coronavirus situation, so not very keen on renting a boat.”
“I had a number of bookings for the coming season, a variety of clients from France, UK and USA, but we obviously had to cancel and refund all the money. A few bookings came in this week for August but, speaking with British people on social media, they are really confused having experienced flight cancellations from different companies. They appear keen to come, but are still wondering if hotels will be open. It looks like big tour operators are just collecting money, then cancelling their bookings and offering a voucher for another date. It’s hard.”
“Unfortunately, I see this season as being very short and quiet. I hope that we have good weather - sunshine and no wind - at least on the weekends, or it could be complicated to stay open until next season.”
Private members’ boat club, RIB Club, is lucky to have customers geographically in place. Spokesperson Olivia White says: “For us it has been a very quick return to business. We have had boats out every day enjoying the coastline and we’re getting amazing photos sent to us highlighting how turquoise the water is this year and how quiet the bays are with no tourists. Our members who are abroad away from RIB Club locations are very eager to get here and back out on the water. They’re renewing their memberships into the club and booking days out to have something to look forward to. We always have members boating all year - from January to December - however, we do hope that even the usually quieter months will be busier this year due to people trying to make the most of the season.”
Santa Ponsa-based Catany Boat Club is an English-Spanish affair founded by Kerry Flannagan and Nicolás Catany. They have six boats in their fleet and feel things are looking rather promising: “Unfortunately, some of our clients are going through tough and uncertain times, but we’ve also had a lot of interest from returning and new clients,” says Kerry. “May was incredibly busy for us, since our clients were all keen to escape the lockdown and cram a full month of boating into the last fortnight. We have a few new clients who are still stuck outside of Spain, but they are living vicariously by signing up to the club and will be on the first available seat out here. It’s important that we stick to all the government-suggested guidelines about cleaning the boats, and we regularly update our clients on the restrictions, but this has all been very well received because everyone is just so relieved to get out on the water again. It’s still very quiet in most anchorages, but we are loving this form of social distancing.”
Port Adriano-based 21Boats.com is a brand new club that launched just in time for the strangest season of their careers. The young but experienced team - Javi, Alberto and Viviane - has a simple goal: to have no economic losses in 2020 and a normal full season in 2021. “We are optimistic that foreign clients will want to come and spend their holidays in Majorca, especially those who have a second home here but, all in all, we see a very short season.”
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