Simply putting the pieces together over the course of a week, it quickly became clear that LeGrand’s vision may be right: The charter business just might be ready for its largest leap in history.
“As more and more boats are built, the harbors are full,” he continues. “It’s spreading out. For instance, another main area needs to be developed for August. China has some very interesting possibilities.”
Fraser is not the only company thinking globally; firms such as Nigel Burgess and Camper & Nicholsons are always scouting out the next great horizon. Some of their top people say off the record that they have ideas similar to LeGrand’s, but that the challenges this worldwide vision includes are formidable. For starters, there is the lack of infrastructure in many parts of the world--things such as marinas, restaurants, food and fuel provisioning, Western-style waterfronts where charter guests can find things to do. There is also the matter of piracy, especially in places like the South China Sea.
Some even say new markets will never emerge because many people charter yachts precisely because they want to see and be seen in hot spots such as St. Tropez and St. Bart’s. This is where LeGrand stands out, quibbling with the concept like a bright young executive in a roomful of staid, old-money conservatives. “Wealthy people want to be seen where their culture pays attention,” he argues. As more and more money is made in places like Russia, China, and India, he reasons, those nation’s richest superstars will want to dock their yachts in the Black Sea, the port of Shanghai, and the Bay of Bengal. To “get away from it all,” people on that side of the world will want to visit islands in the South Pacific, not fly halfway around the globe to the Caribbean.
And once a fair number of high-end boats are positioned in these new places, LeGrand’s logic goes, the more adventurous Western clients who have been to the Caribbean and Mediterranean countless times will begin to book charters in the up-and-coming locations. Money flowing into those areas will lead to ever-improving infrastructure, which will lead to more yachts being built and kept there, and so on until charter-yacht havens are nearly as ubiquitous as cruise ship terminals around the world.
LeGrand says his perspective was shaped, in part, by the opportunity he had a few years ago to manage the 193-foot Senses, the $31-million “Hummer of the seas” built to cruise and charter anywhere. The yacht’s owner, LeGrand says, opened his eyes to the notion of expanding ideas and the investments required to make those ideas reality. LeGrand has since begun looking to hire Fraser employees who speak languages other than French and English, who know potential markets in unlikely places, and who can help to develop infrastructures wherever the charter market demands them.
He’s also keeping a keen eye on the offices that Fraser recently contracted to open in New Zealand and in Casa de Campo, part of the increasingly popular La Romana region of the Dominican Republic. He’s adding a fifth broker to Fraser’s operations on the U.S. West Coast when other major companies don’t even have one, and he’s making personal trips to Asia to scout out possible marina locations and more.
“We’ll have to talk more about this,” he says as he gets up to leave the Hatteras’ skylounge and move on to other business. His stride is confident, and his eyes are focused.
It’s as if he might step off the yacht and into the future of charter itself.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.