Charter Itinerary: The New Revolutionary Itinerary Creation Platform
We speak with the founders of Charter Itinerary, Boris de Bel and Candice Christiansen, to hear more about the inspiration behind the platform and gain valuable insight into the future of charter from the innovators at its very cutting-edge. Waving the flag for the digitalisation of the superyacht industry, Charter Itinerary is leading the charge to ensure that charter planning becomes more efficient.
In our discussion with the co-founders of Charter Itinerary, Boris de Bel and Candice Christiansen think fondly back to August 2020 when their journey began over a glass of gin and tonic, as they founded the platform that seeks to revolutionise the charter experience.
Christiansen modestly recalls their moment of “post-lockdown inspiration that had come about after spending months, jailed in our own houses."
However, this epiphany was no coincidence. Rather, the conversation the pair had in which their brainchild was born came after years of issues with producing itineraries for clients.
Having worked at KK Superyachts before joining De Bel at yacht management company Swisspath Yachting, Christiansen observed a problem that was persistent throughout the charter section of the industry and even blighted the charter team at Swisspath.
“It stemmed from the fact that I just couldn't create the itineraries that I wanted myself for the clients. There was nothing available.
“It was just a very, very frustrating process for ourselves, spending literally days creating itineraries, or outsourcing it to marketing companies, and them creating just a PDF brochure and charging us lots of money.”
Christiansen remembers realising that she wasn’t alone in the arduous process of developing itineraries.
She recalls also speaking with Captains who similarly had the frustration of trying to put together itineraries using Word documents and trying to source photographs from anywhere that they could be found in order to give something to the client that ultimately “never really looked professional”.
De Bel, whose professional background was not as charter-focused as Christiansen, nonetheless made similar observations, even realising that brokers were trying to avoid or rush the itinerary creation process, despite it being an essential part of their remit.
“This is a pain point that every single charter broker would encounter.
“What we were noticing was because of just how difficult, complex and time consuming, creating itineraries was, brokers were just doing everything they could not to create the itinerary. So only if the client really asked, why would they do it, and a lot of them would just do a quick job using Word or PDF, or PowerPoint.”
Upon the launch of Charter Itinerary’s demo version which was shown to potential clients over Zoom, the idea received huge plaudits within the industry, with over 100 companies subscribing in the platform’s first month.
The tool has since been on quite a journey thanks to the work done actively engaging with feedback from users, however, at its core the web-app addresses the same issues the pair set out to when they began.
“One of the issues as well, that we encountered was often you're preparing a charter itinerary six months, before the charter actually takes place and in that time, the itinerary is going to change at some point. You'd have this beautiful PDF presentation that you're stuck with and you would have to spend another half a day, having to amend the route details, because they decided to go somewhere different,” says Christiansen.
She continued: “So what we really were mindful of when creating the platform was to make it really easy to edit the itinerary once you have created this. So if anything needs to be changed, it can be changed in just a few clicks and you don't have to spend any large amount of time editing it.”
Another feature added to the platform, with the needs of a yacht’s captain at the forefront of the company’s mind, is the possibility to include weather forecasts and also historical weather data.
Such information is particularly useful when it comes to planning a trip in a region that a crew is unfamiliar with.
De Bel gives an example: “When selecting an anchorage in Greece, even though they planned itinerary, say five months in advance, they're able to see well that over the last five years there's usually a westerly wind that's blowing there, and therefore they should rather have the boat anchored on the East side of the island to shelter it from the wind.”
According to the pair who both grew up in South Africa, though digitalisation has taken place in other areas of the superyacht industry it has mysteriously fallen behind when it comes specifically to charters.
They cite countless departments within the industry which have their own platforms from crew documentation to accounting software, but want to bring the charter section firmly into the modern era.
De Bel continues: “The yachting industry, per se is actually a very new industry in the greater scheme of things and so the original companies, the big players, were set up by people who when they set up these companies, technology was nowhere, so it's normal that, the next generation of leaders in the industry are just much more tech-inclined.”
Whilst Charter Itinerary seek to fill a gap in a market, fundamentally their aim is to provide a service that is worthwhile.
Part of the joy of booking a charter trip is the excitement in the build-up to that and Christiansen certainly feels that the interactive nature of their platform can help generate that sense of anticipation.
“I think it's a great aid to actually show them what they can experience not just on the yacht itself, but also where they're going to go, the whole experience of the charter, and holiday.
“As such, it's definitely something to entice the client with, and to help them to get the booking.”
At the core of Charter Itinerary’s ethos is a belief that the destination of a charter holiday is arguably more fundamental than any other element.
Whilst there is some element of variation amongst yachts, they can be somewhat homogenised, whereas each charter destination has its own unique charm and intricacies that are of greatest interest to charter clients.
“There's obviously two elements to your charter, there's a yacht and there's a destination, right? Usually, the thought process isn't like 'let's charter a yacht', it’s like 'we want to go on holiday in Croatia, let's do it on a yacht',” says De Bel.
“The yacht is, of course, important, but there are a lot of boats that have jet skis, jacuzzi, four staterooms, two decks, there's loads of those. So whilst the yacht is obviously a key component of it, what you are really selling is the charter destination.”
With a catalogue of 30,000 locations in the Charter Itinerary library, choice is endless.
Around 3,500 of the locations come attached with descriptions and images which they provide.
However, a useful tool that is featured on the platform is the ability for other companies to incorporate years of their own data collated and curated by them on their version of the web-app; all of this data, of course, remains totally private to them.
The ample information on the service does not mean that it is overwhelming for its users; far from it, in fact, with plenty of sample itineraries featured on the web-app.
Rather, Charter Itinerary pride themselves on being particularly user-friendly, with details to any itinerary easily enhanced with a useful ‘points of interest’ tool that allows users to add restaurants or excursions to their plan.
Going forward, the pair envisage specialising further in the charter side, with a sense of caution when it comes to the idea of spreading themselves too thin.
“We don't believe that one platform can do everything well and there are quite a lot of platforms that tried that in yachting, that did crew management and yacht management and charter and calendar and booking etc. None of those are around anymore,” De Bel tells us.
“There are other processes involved in a successful charter transaction, of which itineraries is one, and we are looking to develop effectively in these other processes so that Charter Itinerary is the go-to platform for all charter related business.”
Having taken huge strides in improving efficiency, the industry now waits with bated breath to see what is the next destination in De Bel and Christiansen’s exciting business itinerary.
"It's definitely something to entice the client with, and to help them to get the booking."