Meet the man behind the rise of the Greek luxury yacht charter revival
Yacht Charter Fleet was given an exciting opportunity to speak with Michael Skoulikidis, President of the Greek Yachting Association and the driving force behind the Mediterranean Yacht Show, now in its second successful year.
Aside from his association with the GYA, Skoulikidis is also CEO of Atalanta Golden Yachts, the leading yacht chartering company in Greece. Having been formed in 2006, a collaboration between Atalanta Marine, one of the oldest Greek yachting companies, established in 1985 and Golden Yachts, the company manages sales, new construction, brokerage and chartering of all crewed yachts.
Last year, the Mediterranean Yacht Show was a new addition to the yachting calendar, making its debut in the historic Greek town of Nafplio. Founded by the newly established Greek Yachting Association (GYA), Skoulikidis sought to create a show specifically for trade - for international brokers and industry professionals to view a number of EU flagged luxury charter yachts of all types and sizes.
Ultimately, the Mediterranean Yacht Show represents the steady recovery of the Greek tourism industry, in the wake of an unprecedented economic crisis. It has very successfully provided an insight into both what yacht chartering and more specifically, Greek luxury yacht charters have to offer.
The charter show is now in its second year. How do you think its going and what can be improved?
We are very pleased with how it has gone. Since last year it has grown from 57 to 66 yachts on display, the boats are bigger and the attending brokers are selling more. I think it’s a more successful show and the weather has been better this year! Everyone has been saying good things and next year we hope it can be even better.
Last year you told us that the GYA was formed to promote better members for your products and establish a rule of conduct. Is this still the case?
The boats participating should belong to a central agent. For us, the correct way to conduct our business is to not deal directly with the owner - something which is very common in Greek practice. The GYA was created so that the biggest chartering companies in Greece could all become members, in order to secure the central agent boat and to have a code of ethics between them and the clients. Securing the prices and having the same percentage of commission or discount has also been established in order to have equal competition.
Are we going to see more yachts joining the Greek charter fleet in the next few years to keep up with demand?
Yes. Over the last 2-3 years we have seen an increased demand for chartering in Greece. We have had a lot of demand from Russia in the past and right now we have a very strong demand from the United States because the exchange rate is currently favourable. I think that this will continue, according to the financial situation around the world.
We have explained to our new government the big advantage of yachting and chartering and that it is very important to attract the tourists to our country
One of your goals was to influence internal and external bodies in favour of yachting. One year on, what progress has been made with the Greek authorities to better promote Greece as a yachting destination?
We have a very good relationship with MYBA, with FYBA and ECPY and aim to support these international associations which cover all European legislation. Regarding the internal influence, we have explained to our new government the big advantage of yachting and chartering and that it is very important to attract the tourists that spend a lot of money in our country. We want them to visit and then advertise our country through media around the world. The VIPs who come to Greece have an influence on television and on social media - which make them a every important, indirect advertisement of Greece.
We often hear from other Western brokers that there is a difference between the crews in the West and the East Med. What is your take on this?
In the 90s they were absolutely right. Right now, I would say that they are nearly equal. Regarding the mariners, the captains, the engineers, all the deckhands, the sailors - they have always been good as it has been in our heritage for centuries! Where we were perhaps not so good was in the stewarding department. We have worked hard on this over the past year with lots of training from experienced people.
What plans do the GYA have to persuade owners to invest further in good training to match those of their counterparts in the West Med?
Our entire policy and aim is to improve and upgrade the staff. We are currently doing this for our own companies and we will spread this out across the whole association. GYA is a new association and is only just over a year old. We have already done two successful shows and have plans for many more things. We would like to invest further and we will try hard to upgrade and update all the crew with special hotel groups on board our boats.
What is the advantage of chartering with a Greek Captain and crew around the Greek islands?
The captains are very important because we have thousands of islands in Greece, thousands of beaches, thousands of small ports and navigation is very easy for them as they know it so well. Greeks know the perfect places to go in order to swim alone, to sunbathe alone or to be alone in the evening and have your dinner in a small bay or to go to a small fishing port. If this is the kind of trip you want, it is necessary to have someone who has done it as many times as Greek Captains have.
What assurance can you give foreign charterers who are worried about the situation in Greece if they send their money over?
Some companies have opened accounts in Europe, Switzerland mainly - legal accounts and not offshore. Charterers can send the balance of their charter directly to this account where it is fully guaranteed.
Why should people come to Greece?
Because it’s the best place in the world! I have travelled all over the world, I have sailed in most places and honestly Greece is one of the paradises of yachting. We have a straight coastline, many islands, good weather, great conditions - no hurricanes, no floods, no tides, no pirates - nothing untoward. When you go on vacation, you want calm seas and for that, Greece is ideal. People who would like a cultural trip also will be happy with Greece as it offers a great combination of culture and beautiful yachting.
What advice would you give to potential charterers looking to come to Greece and where would you suggest they go?
We have many groups of islands that are very interesting and all offer something different. The Sporades Islands, Skopelos Islands (of Mamma Mia fame), the Dodecanese islands, south of the Peloponnese and Ionian Islands are all very nice. The Ionian Islands and the West coast of Greece are beautiful as they have a lot of greenery. The ideal would be to have around 10-14 days of chartering in Greece, and have a combination of the Cyclades, coming from the Saronic Islands and then go on to Spetses, Hydra and then perhaps take in Mykonos, Paros, Kourthenisia, Santorini, Milos and Eos - all of which are very nice islands. You can do a very easy and fast itinerary in Greece.
Which is your favourite cruising area in Greece?
All of it! It depends on my mood. I could tell you that I am in love with the Cyclades but everybody’s in love with the Cyclades. I used to have a house and boat on Spetses Island for many years so I think I would have to say that I’m a fan of the Aegean Islands.
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