The next generation of yachting is up and coming, fresh, and has a lot to offer. Looking to the future of yachting, YATCO interviews several new faces of yachting to discover what they have to offer the industry and what they predict for the future of yachting. See below on what Marco Fodale of Fraser Yachts has to say.
Featuring Marco Fodale of Fraser Yachts
Tell us about how you got your start in yachting.
I was born in a little town in Sicily surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea which is known for its strong nautical history and culture. From a very young age I was enamored by the sea, boating and marine life so when it came time to decide on my academic path, I chose to pursue studies in Yacht Design at the University of Genoa. The curriculum would be focused on the yacht building process. After finishing my studies, I realized that the brokerage side of the industry was on top of the list of my dream jobs…even if it wasn’t easy to make this happen.
As I had then made up my mind that I wanted to become a yachting professional, I started chasing brokers and brokerage companies with determination and persistence.
I believe that life gives you a few opportunities and it’s all about your skills to take those opportunities and turn them into realities. My opportunity came when an experienced Fraser broker decided to believe in me and helped get my foot in the door – and this broker still believes in me and supports me today.
I wouldn’t change my career for the world. Though it may sometimes be stressful or hard, I wake up every single day happy and motivated to do the best that I can so that I can deliver for my clients. It is an extremely unordinary job and can be a tough business – but this is probably the reason why I enjoy it. I don’t like to live an ordinary life. I am currently spending my time split between Monaco, all over Europe and the Americas, dependent on where I need to be for my business.
As a professional in yachting, what trends have you seen and what do you predict for the coming years?
The main trends the market has been experiencing over the last few years are:
- the increase in the charter retail business
- the growing interest in eco-friendly yachts
- the explorer yacht market
- more wealthy people considering the possibility of yacht ownership
2021 Record Year for New Builds and Pre-Owned Yacht Sales
2021 was a record year for both new build orders and pre-owned yacht sales. I believe these trends will continue for the foreseen future, with an exceptional impact on the charter sector as the next generation of yachting clients will charter yachts rather than own them. The average age of charter clientele has decreased by about 10 years, and the market will need to adapt to keep up with the requirements of this younger clientele.
I believe we will also see an increase in the “yacht sharing” model, which is already a well-established practice in other fields. I think that in the near future yachting might develop in a multi ownership way, i.e. an ownership will be divided in 5 owners or a yacht will be purchased per months available or weeks available with high and low season. This could also influence the way of building yachts such as the layout, i.e. yachts of the future will have a fully dedicated deck to each owner, means that if the yacht will have 4 owners then every deck will have a master cabin and probably the price will be increase for the higher decks or depending on the gross tonnage of the deck.
I also think that static charter is an underestimated business, international events require yachts with high volume and large deck spaces. If this demand continues, it may be possible that international maritime laws will develop new regulations to allow yachts built for static use in the ports.
As a trend toward ‘out-of-this-world’ luxury travel offerings, I see a parallel future business opportunity for space travel charter, which is developing into a reality sooner than we may think. Our experience in the luxury charter business can be developed in this new field, perhaps through a partnership with a leading company in the space tourism industry.
Since I am also a self-proclaimed history aficionado, I would like to see the industry revive an interest in two things that are disappearing from yachting: sailing vessels and wooden yachts. There is an interesting project by the architect Renzo Piano called “Zattera 24”. It is a vessel with a hybrid motor and built in wood — a commonly used material in nautical construction that’s ecologically sustainable.
What kinds of challenges have you been up against in yachting and how do you overcome them?
Yachting can be very competitive, and sometimes younger brokers are considered less experienced but senior brokers are not often willing to share their experience with them. As a young professional, it is not easy to become affiliated with an established company in yachting. This was a challenge for me, and I am very proud to be part of such a successful and international company today. I have failed many times, but I believe in the end learning from your failures does yield to even more success. This is also why it is good to be able to rely on a few mentors when necessary.
Another challenge I faced in yachting is the dynamic nature of the business and the spontaneity that is required to travel constantly and often without being able to schedule in advance. In the past 13 years I have lived in Switzerland, UK, France, Monaco, Mexico, US and taken these experiences as an opportunity to learn to speak 5 languages, build an international network and have even made friends all over the world.
Having learned about many countries and their respective cultures has also helped me face the challenges that come with working with such an international clientele base, as well as dealing with any conflicts that may arise with other multi-cultural industry professionals such as lawyers, surveyors, captains, etc.
Different cultures may require a different, tailored approach at times.
Finally, for a personal anecdote – many years ago I was on a terrible flight which scared me and lead me to believe that I would never board another plane again. I had to quickly recover and become comfortable with traveling again due to the international nature of the business. I struggled at the beginning and soon came to understand that we are often afraid of what we do not know, so I started to study the physics behind flying and then soon grew a newfound passion for it. Now that I understand the science of it, I am no longer afraid and I take dozens of flights a year, in all weather conditions which allows me to be fully committed to my business.
Please tell us about some of your most memorable and successful moments, professionally.
At the beginning of my career, I joined a start up in yachting which was driven by managers not familiar with yachting. I had the possibility to list an 85-foot Dutch Explorer vessel, definitely not your typical 50 meter “white yacht”, but a good pedigree yacht owned by a very keen seller. The managers weren’t enthusiastic about the listing and didn’t want to invest in marketing the yacht but solely wanted to focus on yachts over 50 meters length which I thought was very hard for a startup. After less than one month from the signing the listing agreement I received an offer very close to the asking price. Soon after, the offer was accepted, and we had a deal. This proved to the company’s management that to someone a certain vessel may be considered ‘ugly’ in personal taste but can be very sellable to the worldwide market. So of course, I was very proud of my fast achievement.
Also, at the start of my career in yachting, there was a day I jumped on 4 flights and after 24 hours from the first meeting to the last meeting I received 3 signed contracts. The excitement surrounding this achievement and the adrenaline were so high that the day after that, I set a new target: signing 4 contracts in 24 hours. I still haven’t achieved that yet, but I am confident that I will.
I also learned very early on that it is essential to inspect a vessel and know very well what you are selling. I got an accepted offer on a yacht without having inspected it before and the buyer was keen to buy quickly so we planned the sea trial after 3 days, but when I arrived in Turkey, I realized that the yacht had been ashore for 3 years and the engine batteries were beyond dead. It was the evening before the sea trial and the nearest ship chandler was a 3-hour drive away. So, I rented a car at dinner time, drove for 3 hours. It was the middle of the night and the naval shop owner kindly met me at midnight so that I could purchase 4 new batteries. I drove back for 3 hours, arrived on board at sunrise to install the new batteries and at 8am the sea trial was successfully performed.
I fully agree with Thomas Jefferson when he said: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” I feel that one of the most memorable moments of my professional career was when I decided to be an independent yacht broker, a target that I set since the beginning of my career. That week I established my sole trader company which I created to sign the agreement with Fraser, I was happy and insecure at the same time, but this gave me the chance to focus even more on business.
What do you aspire to for the future?
I believe that the yachting business is still not a regulated industry in terms of licenses and academic courses. When I decided to pursue my career in yachting, Italian laws required that I get my brokerage license. As far as I know this is mandatory in Italy and the US but isn’t necessarily mandatory in other counties where the yacht brokerage business is well developed such as Monaco, France, etc. A professional yacht broker should have to follow a specific academic course to keep the industry standards high.
My aim for the future is to become an esteemed and well-known yacht broker. I would like to be recognized in the industry as a broker working with ethical values and professional standards, but this takes time and hard work. Our company introduced in 2016 an award as a tribute to the late Richard Earp’s unfailingly gentlemanly conduct and integrity in dealing with clients, Fraser believes that these traits should be encouraged in an increasingly competitive industry like yachting. Among the most important values, I think that a yacht broker should be humble and polite, values that I have learned from my family and that I try every day to make part of my professional career.