We talked to Adrian Walker of Boataffair about boutique yacht experience ad here is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adrian Walker: Thank you so much for asking. My wife and my two sons are all very well, and as a family, we spend a lot of time together. We are very outdoorsy, and love to go on hikes and spend a lot of time in nature. Being on one of our outdoor adventures just the four of us, that is where we genuinely recharge our batteries.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Boataffair.
Adrian Walker: Boataffair is a boutique yacht experience company we established in Switzerland in 2017. We offer bespoke yacht holidays in 60+ countries. After meeting at Imperial College London during our MBA, my wife and I found a shared passion for boats and authentic experiences. A few years after the MBA we spent a day on our yacht in the South of France, and we both discussed how beautiful, enriching and fun experiences on the water are and how wonderful it will be for more people to enjoy them.
Having looked deeper into it, we realized that current luxury boat rental solutions do not satisfy affluent clientele: unreliable vessel and crew quality, poor UI & software, minimal transparency and flexibility, geographic fragmentation. Competing platforms offer unreliable services and low-quality at best with a luxury price tag at worst.
We saw the exact niche and established Boataffair with a focus on quality yacht experiences by handpicking only professionally managed yachts and strictly vetting all our inventory. Quality vs quantity became a unique USP for Boataffair. Competing platforms all go for the quantity of boats – we went after the quality of yachts and, crucially, the quality of the overall experience.
How does Boataffair innovate?
Adrian Walker: We keep talking to our clients! We listen to their feedback – we always want to know how their experience with Boataffair was. We believe a company can only continuously innovate when finding out exactly what drives a client to your website or your business, what makes them commit to purchase your services and what makes them return after the first purchase. The understanding of this cycle is essential. Just as an example – after Boataffair’s first year we realized that practically every client asks us “What will we be doing on the yacht during our holiday”. Therefore, we started to create unique itineraries and experiences and based on that we published our very own Experience Page on our website. We now offer hundreds of curated yacht experiences, handpicked by us, all over the world.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Adrian Walker: We have noted a very positive effect on our business with the coronavirus pandemic. We have lots of clients who now turn to us because they are looking for safe and socially distant holidays. On our yachts, you get precisely that. You only travel with people you know, you stay away from the crowds, and our crews are regularly tested and trained in strict hygiene procedures. We always paid great attention to how the yachts we offer are cleaned and maintained. Hence, the already strict cleaning standards were strengthened further due to COVID-19. The vessels being meticulously cleaned and sanitized after and during every charter. Crews have been trained in the extended hygiene procedures and of course, tested regularly. The staff have additional protocols on how to spot symptoms in guests and what course of action is needed if anyone onboard displays symptoms.
We are pleased that we can offer the perfect ‘post corona travel product’. Private, socially distanced, away from people you don’t know and with all the luxuries that come with chartering your private yacht with a professional crew. You will be experiencing such great comfort in your floating hotel with a chef if so required, who prepares delicious meals at all times of the day.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Adrian Walker: This summer we decided to cancel our summer holidays due to the uptake in yacht bookings. As mentioned above, many clients found us due to the pandemic and turned to us to book their safe summer and autumn holidays. Therefore, we needed to discuss with the family and decided that we cannot take the weeks off as we wanted. We agreed to take a week off in the autumn instead, as we did. We feel it is always essential to understand when family and when business needs come first. There is a balance that needs to be achieved.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Adrian Walker: As mentioned above, we like to take defined time outs by going outdoors and spending time with our families. Sometimes it is worth it to work less, and it is ok to do so. We’re in it for the long run, so there is no point in burning your energy too fast. Going outside and being in nature gives us new perspectives and for a lot to be thankful.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Adrian Walker: Our competitors all focus on building a mass-market service in the yacht industry, selling to a substantial fraction of consumers. They typically have shallow margins and have no focus on quality inventory. We have achieved an exact niche in the last few years and established Boataffair with a focus on quality yacht experiences by handpicking only professionally managed yachts and strictly vetting all our inventory. Quality vs quantity became a unique USP for Boataffair. With COVID-19, our vetting processes have been confirmed, the pandemic is like proof of concept for us: We can tell our clients that we know our yacht and experience inventory, and this creates trust. Competing platforms all go for the number of boats, and they do not vet them either – we went after the quality of yachts and, crucially, the quality of the overall experience. We sell the yacht experience as a service as opposed to the boat as a product like everyone else.
Your final thoughts?
Adrian Walker: In times of COVID-19, it is even more critical than ever that when you make travel plans, you do not want automated travel systems or booking platforms. You want a human and personal touch, travel experts who can advise you on safe destinations and who curate your tailored package. At Boataffair, we offer that. Every client, every partner is important to us, and we love to create dream holiday experiences by tapping into our vast knowledge and trusted yacht partner network.