Yacht Brokerage Becoming Globalized Business

Increased Internet access opens up new markets of potential boat buyers

As Europe's telecommunications infrastructure becomes more advanced,allowing easier and cheaper access to the Internet, US-based yacht brokerages and marine industry Web sites that list boats for sale are developing strategies to attract overseas boat buyers and brokers.

Transatlantic boat sales are no longer an impossibility, and brokerages are looking to take advantage of a booming mega-yacht market.

"There just aren't enough products on the market to meet the demand," says Neil McCurdy, general manager of Yachtworld.com, a marine industry search engine that has been in existence since 1995.

US-based Yachtworld.com and BoatTraderOnline.com are considered to have the most extensive listing of boats for sale online. Unlike Yachtworld.com BoatTraderOnline.com posts boats sale by consumers, not just by brokers.

Yachtworld.com, in the past four years, has focused on the domestic market. But it now is beginning to shift its attention overseas.

The site, which currently has 700 member brokers, expects to reach its goal of 1,000 members in the next nine months, says McCurdy.

Once that's achieved, he says the company will begin to market the site in Europe.

Now, only 65 member brokers are from outside the United States - a figure Yachtworld.com is looking to increase, he says. And they're likely to face little competition since Europe based marine industry search engines don't exist, he adds.

Meanwhile, BoatTraderOnline has seen its dealer base double to 750 in the past year. In August, the site listed more than 50,000 boats for sale and reported 450,000 visitors with 800,000 boat searches conducted.

The Internet is impacting transatlantic boat sales and changing the way yacht charter companies do business.

While the number of international brokerages using the site has been rising steadily, some obstacles still remain.

Kelly Morgan, marketing director of Trader Online, a unit of Trader Publishing Co. and the umbrella organization for BoatTraderOnline.com, says it's difficult to get brokers to place a lot of inventory on multiple sites because it can be time consuming to manage the inventory.

"That's why we're constantly looking for ways to make the site user-friendly." These international sales are not restricted to mega-yachts. Mid-size vessels also are selling globally. According to McCurdy, one New Zealand yacht broker placed several 12.91-metre (m) sailboats online recently, hoping to attract buyers from outside the country.

Companies focus on overseas market

In an effort to increase its presence, Yachtworld.com is considering opening an office in Europe next year, says McCurdy. Yachtworld.com, which has US$5.3bn worth of inventory online and receives 275,000 visitors per month, also will be placing a currency converter on its site and researching ways to eliminate language barriers.

Florida-based yacht brokerage Allied Marine already is addressing this concern. It has revamped its site to include a portion in Spanish and is planning to market its Web site on Spanish search engines.

While US leads outweigh European inquiries, McCurdy of Yachtworld.com predicts this gap will be narrowing as Internet access becomes more readily available overseas.