Rhea Rouw is currently quite a long way from home in British Colombia, where she grew up in a man’s world helping her father with his logging company in the Rocky Mountains as a young girl before embarking on a career in journalism on her local paper and then moving into TV production and radio.
Some 17 years ago, while touring Europe, she landed in Ibiza, fell in love with the Mediterranean and decided that this was where she wanted to spend some time.
So within a space of year, she returned home, closed down her radio station, sold the business and her home, packed her bags and moved to Ibiza, and it was not before long she popped over to Mallorca. Ever since, she has been flitting back and forth between Palma and Canada. However, having grown up in a man’s world, she soon began to notice that the yachting industry, which is vital to Mallorca’s economy, was still very much a “macho” world and decided that the nautical industry as a whole needed a voice.
So, on February 14, 2019, she launched Yachting International Radio, focusing on major topics such as the environment, mental health, diversity, equality, innovation and education; creating an understanding of how we can continue to live our best lives, but do so while being more careful with the world around us.
And in so doing, she has not only interviewed and featured some of the industry’s biggest players, she now has a network of highly skilled radio journalists and experts in their various fields in the nautical industry, who work as correspondents and radio hosts across the globe.
Three years down the road, Yachting International Radio is a Yachting Channel spanning across all social media platforms. Reaching over 300,000 industry professionals per month, YIR features weekly shows on the major topics, hosted by experts in their field, including crew and ex-crew. But more importantly, the station lifts the lid off all the hidden secrets which many people outside, and even inside, the industry either do not realise are going on or turn a blind eye to.
Ironically, Rhea has found herself back in a man’s world, although this time she and her team are doing all they can to address that.
“The nautical industry is still very much male driven, plus there are deep-rooted problems such as sexual abuse, racism, prejudice and inequality. Challenging that is what the radio station is all about.
“It’s not just about covering the leading yacht shows, the new super yachts and all the glamour of the industry, we get under the skin, the fabric of the nautical sector. Yes, many people love it, some people hate it, but we are transparent and want to tell the truth.
“I and many of my colleagues have witnessed all kinds of injustice in marinas and on board yachts all around the world and we want to try and play a role in changing that along with people’s attitudes and mindset.
“That not only applies to individuals but also to governments. The perfect example is here in Mallorca. It is a Mecca for super yachts but there appears to be hesitancy to allow the industry to expand and grow. Mallorca needs to open its mind to the nautical industry. The rest of the Mediterranean, such as Turkey, Greece and even Italy, have realised the value of the industry and gone ahead with building new super yacht marinas, improving and increasing services and reducing taxes on these kinds of vessel.
“The nautical industry is probably in better shape than ever. For example, 2009 was considered a record year for the super yachts sector. This year, demand for new super yachts has risen by 25 per cent, some 1,200 new luxury vessels have been commissioned, built or put into the water, and the sector is only going to continue growing on various levels.
“There are those who can afford to own and maintain a 40 million dollar vessel. Annual maintenance accounts for around 10 per cent of the value of the yacht, while there are those who have the disposable income but don’t want to be tied down to the maintenance, crew and mooring costs.
“This is what we call ‘generation active’ and they prefer to charter. For example, they want to charter a super yacht in Mallorca during the summer and then opt for Miami, the Caribbean, the Middle East or the South Pacific during the winter. They don’t have to cover the costs of moving their vessels around the world, they can jump on and jump off and this is very much going to play a part in the future of the luxury yachting industry.
“Then, and this is where equality comes in, the luxury black travel industry appears to be ignored by the yachting industry. It’s worth 100 billion dollars per year and rising, but like I’ve said, the industry is still very stereotyped.
“Then there is the lack of attention given to young people in the industry. We need to be looking at the long game and listing to their concerns about the environment, sustainable yachting, climate change. These are gong to be the people making the decisions in the industry in 10 to 15 years.
“But, and as is the case here in Mallorca, if those in power, the decision makers, are not listening to the industry and looking at what is happening in competing markets, the island will lose out in the long term.
“A super yacht with a crew of, say, 10 to 20 in port for a week generates millions of euros. It’s quality tourism and is worth much more than mass tourism. Other destinations have realised this, so why can’t Mallorca? Why is Mallorca not allowing more marinas or super yacht berths?
“There’s so much talk about the nautical industry but deep down they don’t really appreciate its true value. It does not matter whether a luxury yacht is in the water or on the hard in a shipyard, it’s an all-year industry generating billions of euros and creating a lot of jobs. It’s a prestige market which Mallorca needs to make much more of an effort to work with and encourage.
“As we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic, people want to stay in their bubbles. The charter industry at all levels has enjoyed a record year and boat manufacturers have been struggling to keep up with demand.
“In the States, for example, they couldn’t, hence why so many orders were placed with chandlers and builders in Mallorca and Europe. People from all over the world were not only purchasing yachts in Europe, they were then having them shipped home to the States, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Africa, India or South America.
“This year’s growth in the super yacht market is a clear indication of how much money is out there and how much people are prepared to spend as they value their health and safety more than ever, and Mallorca needs to wake up to that.
“The industry is much more environmentally aware than it ever has been, it believes in sustainability, as do the yacht owners or charter clients who are now cruising with their kids. It’s a family industry and is no longer dominated by gin palaces with all the old school trappings that used to go with it.
“There is a whole new active and wealthy generation which is queuing up to come to places like Mallorca.”
To listen to Yachting International Radio it is available on all social media platforms around the world.