They weren't locked into tiny apartments or rooms by themselves or with others but the world's super rich needed to get away from the COVID-19 pandemic too and for many the destination was Greece – reached on their yachts.
In a feature, The Financial Times noted the enduring and growing popularity of the country that has thousands of islands – from the popular such as Hydra, Mykonos and Santorini for those with big boats – to the tiny and uninhabited.
One of them, Johan Wedell-Wedellsborg, likes to take his family cruising around the Mediterranean for their idle time and getaway from the Coronavirus although Greece requires tourists to be vaccinated, have a negative molecular PCR test with 72 hours or arrival or proof of recovery from the illness.
There's no report how those on yachts could be monitored or if they could just sail into a port or offshore and take their little dinghies onto the island for dinner at a luxury restaurant without being checked.
Their vessel is a 56-meter (184-foot) yacht they like to use for island hopping around Greece, essentially using their own floating hotel. They really, really like Greece this year, the report noted.
“The fact you can wake up alone in a bay, go to a little town and eat at a small seaside taverna is unique. On the French Riviera it’s not the same, you just sail along the coast, there are more yachts, and it is not as secluded as Greece,” said Wedell-Wedellsborg, owner of the Weco Shipping company who has links to Denmark’s royal family.
Curiously, he has a lot of company because there's a lot of ultra-wealthy around the world who think the same although they've managed not to bump their yachts into each other yet.
“Greece has seen a surge in yachting activity,” Stewart Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of Boat International, the superyacht magazine, which tracked 834 superyachts in Greek waters in July, just behind France with 945 and Italy’s 1,353. “That’s way ahead of previous years,” he told the news site.
After Greece was in the front line of inviting tourists to come in July in a bid to help an economy battered by the pandemic and lockdowns that temporarily closed non-essential businesses, the Uber-rich didn't need Uber to get there.
Much of the world’s superyacht fleet spends half the year in the Caribbean before moving to the Mediterranean for the European summer, said the report, adding that most are motorized and staffed by a professional crew full-time.
“We’ve had so many requests for Greece this year . . . Our main problem is there’s not enough supply (to meet) the demand,” said Barbara Dawson, a Senior Charter Broker at Camper & Nicholsons, a superyacht specialist.
POP THE CORK
The yachters also like that Greece has so many islands that they can find one with fewer – or no – people and just stake a claim to frolic there without worry about the pandemic that's resurging in the country.
“A chartered vessel is essentially a floating luxury hotel where the ability to control the environment and screen guests and staff for the virus provides an added level of security,” said the piece.
John Dragnis, CEO of Golden Yachts, which builds and charters superyachts, said after the 2020 pandemic nightmare essentially locked down the world and brought international travel, and yachting, to a near standstill that 2021 is better.
“We don’t have a single day free for any of our 42 yachts until the end of August,” he said, an indication of just how many rich there are among the world's 1 percent of billionaire and oligarchs.
“We have high-profile clients, entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities who are chartering our yachts feeling that it’s the safest choice for their vacation during the pandemic,” he said.
A superyacht – unlike a yacht for the less rich – is technically more than 24 meter (79 feet) long, and the cost of hiring one can vary from tens of thousands to several million euros a week, depending on size and style, said the story.
“People previously hesitant about stepping into the sector realised that yachting provides the perfect means of isolation for them and their families,” Campbell said, bringing in tourists who spend at will and don't ask for prices.
Superyacht visitors spend up to five times more than the average hotel guest in Greece, according to a pre-pandemic study by the Greek Marinas Association.
“Unlike cruise vessels, where people tend to eat and spend on board, part of the joy of yachting is discovering new bars and restaurants. There are also mooring fees, which directly benefit local economies, and the sale of goods and services,” Campbell said.
Olga Milioni, a yacht agent based on Mykonos, said there's a lot of benefits to an island's economy from people who start counting at six or seven figures.
“Lobsters, top-quality fish, flowers, as well as limousine services and VIP reservations on the islands, where they can spend 10,000 euros ($11,795) just on drinks,” she said, not even counting the appetizers or main dishes.
“Others asked for a really expensive bag . . . or custom-labelled champagne bottles and luggage”, while someone else “heard a DJ playing at a club and asked him to do a private show on their yacht,” she said.