July 17th 2017. By Kim Kavin.

Float Click-to-Book Yacht Charters

Will Float be the breakthrough disruptor for click-to-book chartering?

Just 20 years ago if you wanted to stay at a hotel, you called and booked a room through a travel agent. Most of us accepted this as fact. Then came Expedia and Travelocity in 1996, Priceline in 1997 and the myriad other click-to-book sites that now exist for hotel stays. Orbitz, Hotwire and Kayak launched in the early 2000s, adding to the cacophony of sites that let customers self-book everything from airline tickets to rental cars. By the late 2000s, we had Airbnb and Uber, disrupting the traditional hotel and taxi industries in new self-booking ways. For the better part of a decade now, tech-minded upstarts have been trying to make similar inroads in the yacht charter industry. Long been dominated by persnickety yacht owners and human handlers who finesse the charter bookings through personal relationships worldwide, why isn’t there an app for that?

With a new app offering yacht charter “by the seat” you can click to book tickets on browsable pre-planned cruises.

With a new app offering yacht charter “by the seat” you can click to book tickets on browsable pre-planned cruises.

In 2008, eyachtcharter.com tried to become the Realtor.com of the yacht charter world, creating a searchable database of yachts for consumers and, back then (you know, the “old days”), driving the charter inquiries to real-live-human brokers. For consumers, the concept wasn’t click-to-book yourself, but eyachtcharter.com represented the first time a tech-forward approach to yacht charter got serious publicity in the United States.

Yachtster, founded in 2003 in Monaco and acquired a couple of years ago by charter powerhouse Camper & Nicholsons International, made its global debut with a click-to-book app in summer 2015. Yachtster focuses on smaller yachts and last-minute bookings, and at first focused on French Riviera itineraries. It crossed the pond and was also operating in South Florida by late 2015, promising users the ability to book a charter yacht via their smartphone with just two hours’ notice.

Now comes Float, a startup from Gualtiero Giori, former head of Camper & Nicholsons International, and Dimitri Semenikhin, CEO of the superyacht database Yacht Harbour. They’re trying to take the app-friendly yacht charter concept to yet another level.

Float lets users click-to-book yacht charters “by the seat, with prices starting as low as €99 per person,” according to a press release. Predetermined routes are scheduled to run in Monaco and St. Tropez this summer, with plans to expand into South Florida and the Bahamas for the winter 2017-18 charter season. Customers can hop on, hop off, and spend a day on a yacht with friends or strangers, cruising and lounging on whatever beaches are scheduled.

“Float brings a level of efficiency and innovation to yachting that the sector was previously lacking,” Semenikhin stated. “In addition to exposing a whole new demographic to yachts, Float’s tech platform drastically reduces the complexity of chartering a yacht with its instant-booking function and removes price as a barrier of entry.”

The holy grail these companies all seek is, of course, industry disruption on par with what Expedia, Orbitz and their brethren have accomplished in other tourism sectors. So far, Yachtster and Float click-to-book yacht charters are focusing on smaller yachts and last-minute bookings, so the superyacht charter industry (and its middleman brokers) does not seem to be in any danger.

Could we see a day in the future, though, when clients will click-to-book a weeklong, $250,000 charter vacation on a superyacht?

Perhaps we might, as we read the day’s news on our tablets while commuting to the marina in our self-driving cars. Until then, you’ll have to do things the old-fashioned way if you want to book a magnificent megayacht charter.

Kim Kavin

Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of 10 books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, and is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine www.CharterWave.com.