Jonathan H. Syrett, some fifty years in Mallorca's nautical business.


There are very few people in Mallorca, or in fact Spain, who know the nautical industry better than Jonathan H. Syrett.

His nautical career began in Mallorca in the 1970s. Having completed his A Levels and Scottish Highers in Glasgow, where he was reluctant to go as it dragged him away from giving windsurfing lessons to the inner circle of the Spanish Royal Family, Jonathan was headhunted by Camper & Nicholsons International and was persuaded to close down his first company, Comercial Náutica, joining them as a yacht sales broker in 1985.

It was the start of a decades-long career that would culminate in him being responsible for directing the Camper & Nicholsons Spanish operation for over twenty years.

He eventually retired from Camper & Nicholsons in 2018 and since then has been working as a yachting and brokerage consultant for his own company, Hamilton Marine, which specialises in luxury yachting. Right now, for example, Jonathan is handling the sale of the 76 million-euro yacht Drizzle, which belongs to Spain’s richest man, billionaire Amancio Ortega, who founded the Inditex Fashion Group which owns Zara and other global leading high street retail chains.

Needless to say, this is not the first time Jonathan has acted as a consultant for Ortega, as his list of clients is second to none.

Having attempted to take a step back from the front line of the yachting industry, Jonathan said this week that this year has been extremely busy for the nautical industry in Mallorca as a whole.

“I may not be able to talk on behalf of everyone, but on the whole we’re looking at a record year. The yachting industry has emerged from the pandemic very strongly and the future is looking very bright.

“For example, the market has been extremely busy, with a huge surge in demand for yachts of all sizes. 2019 was a good year, but come the end of this one, when we look back, we may find 2021 has been even better.

“I know of a number of leading yacht dealers on the island who have quite literally run out of new models this year, demand has been so high. Manufacturers and yacht builders have been working overtime.

“I guess when Covid hit, no one had a clue what was going to happen. We were all thrown into varying types of lockdown across the world, but I think that during that time people really started to re-evaluate their lives, the importance of their health and the general well-being of their family moving forward. I know that is one of the reasons demand for yachts suddenly increased.

“Owning a yacht became a safe option for family and friends. Once lockdowns were lifted and restrictions eased, being on a yacht enabled people to enjoy a wonderful experience while remaining in their own little bubbles. I know of one case, although it may be somewhat extreme, where a crew of a luxury yacht spent the whole season cruising with the owners and never got off the yacht. All provisions were delivered when in port and the owners and the crew never went ashore. They stayed safe and protected in the luxury of their own yacht.

“Yachts provide a safe cocoon and a lot of people have come to realise that. Those who can afford to have bought, while the charter industry this season was also extremely busy here in Mallorca and the Balearics.

“Setting sail provided the refuge many people were looking for once the restrictions were lifted, and the fact that Covid has not gone away is still driving the market. It is a safe, controlled environment to be in.

“Obviously, the industry had to adapt extremely quickly to the impact of Covid, but it has done so with great success. The shipyards in Palma, some of the best in Europe, were full during the pandemic with refit and repair work being carried out. The trouble was that the professional crews had to remain on board in quarantine. There was highly restricted access into the yards and port visits were prohibited. So the first phase of Covid was extremely challenging for the industry.

“But it’s very resilient and, in the case of Mallorca, extremely professional. So looking back, I think the nautical sector managed to sail through the choppy waters of Covid relatively well and has emerged in very good condition.

“On the brokerage and consultancy front, we’ve also had to adapt. We’ve been making full use of the very latest technology to host video showings of yachts to clients all over the world, who either don’t have the time or, at one point, were unable to travel.

“Like many others, we have been producing top-quality video packages of yachts, which offer close-up option so nothing can be hidden. A potential client can take a 100 percent full look over the yacht, zoom in to every nook and cranny - there’s no room for cheating. People have bought yachts before going aboard, and this has opened up a whole new market, which has been very exciting and is going to continue being very much a part of the new normal for the yachting industry and no doubt many others, like real estate.

“But the big plus is being based here in Mallorca. This year we’ve seen the return of a vast number of luxury super yachts which were once regular visitors but have not come for a number of years, plus the arrival of a number of new luxury yachts and their owners who have all been keen to cruise and explore the Balearics, which is a paradise for yachting and sailing. Not only does the island offer highly experienced professionals in all sectors of the industry, from brokers and lawyers to skippers, crews and engineers, it boasts some of the best marinas in the Mediterranean, not to mention the marinescape and the environment. It’s a nautical jewel and so close to most major European cities.

“That said, we could be doing even better if the local government would give us more help.

Moorings, or rather lack of, have been a problem again this year. We’ve had to moor luxury yachts off some of the most popular marinas, and the current government has slapped a ban on extending marinas and increasing moorings for the next 15 years, although that may change should there be a change of government. Who knows. Yes, they do realise and appreciate that the nautical industry is the second most important to the Balearics, but they seem loath to give us any real help. That is frustrating for the industry as a whole because we need more room to expand; we need to in order to meet demand and create more local jobs and boost the economy even more.

“We have been able to bring about some changes over the years, such as the lifting of the 21% matriculation tax, which opened the door for more yachts, in particular super yachts, to come into Spanish and Balearic waters, and restrictions on the charter industry back in 2013. These have enabled the market to grow.

“But we need to be given more room to manoeuvre and grow.

“No new marinas and no expansion, it’s a sad state of affairs considering the vast potential the Balearic nautical industry still has to unlock and much of which will greatly benefit the region. So, while we can look back on a surpassingly good year, there is still plenty of work to be done.”