Running a Sailing Charter Business – Top Ten Tips

Unique Boat – Get Out There and Be Seen

Traditional boats, yachts and tall ships are all extremely different not only from one another but also from modern white fibre glass boats. We never put down modern yachts as many of our customers sail them, but we do point out the differences.

Your first decision has to be; is this vessel be attractive or capable of being made attractive?

You might want to consider how else the vessel can stand out from the crowd. Pilot Cutters would carry their pilot number or port initials to be recognised. We were one of the first pilot cutter replicas to choose a short name and put ‘Eve’ name on the sail. Best marketing decision we ever made.

We launched Classic Sailing Ltd with Eve of St Mawes
We launched Classic Sailing Ltd with Eve of St Mawes

Location – Location – Location

Sail a beautiful boat in a beautiful location

You’re marketing is differentiating yourself from modern boats, you are educating the public to be more discerning and the beauty of your boat is a big part of this. It’s a natural addition to sail that boat in a beautiful setting.

It is no surprise to find more of our boats in the West Country than on the East Coast of England.

Remote Ports – Not as crazy as it sounds. Persuading our customers to join their voyage in many odd places around the world gets easier and easier as travel information is so much simpler to find on the internet. 

Lots of Holiday Products

We have always looked bigger than we really are. Customers are amazed that our original 16-page brochure was all about one boat. We pioneered many voyages with a new twist. Sailing and Walking voyages were promoted via a “Country Walking” Magazine article. Women Go Wild Voyages were given a wider audience through Health & Fitness Magazine. Places on our Marine Wildlife Workshops were subsidised by a government training grant – so students could afford to sail. Island Hopping in the Scillies became a popular speciality. Our 3-day Taste of Salt voyages made ideal competition prizes for newspapers, magazines and trade journals. Exotic Spring Gardens of Cornwall Voyages encouraged lots of brave non-sailors to come sailing in early March! Fresh Seafood Voyages were jointly promoted with a local seafood specialist and trawler owner. The more options you offer the more likely you are to be seen by people with that particular interest.

Not preaching to the converted

There are more people who have never sailed than those that have.

You need to be able to show your boat and voyages to a large audience, not just a specialist market of keen sailors. The Classic Sailing team have never seen fellow charter boats as competition. They welcome more beautiful boats taking new people out on the water, it all helps build the market place, like Hay on Wye being full of second hand book shops.

Understand where the real competition is.

If you totalled up all the berths on traditional charter boats and sail training ships in the UK they amount to very small fry compared to the huge holiday market. One specialist trekking and adventure company like Exodus would provide more holiday spaces than the whole UK charter fleet put together. Other adventure and activity holidays are where the competition really lies. If you are promoting winter sailing in the Canaries you really are competing for people’s holiday money with ski-ing in the Alps or lazing in the sun in Morocco.

Your skippers need to like people

A masterful skipper – aloof and mysterious, calmly assesses the situation, busy with the lonely decisions of command. Does this work on a charter boat? No chance. If you don’t like people this is not the job for you. Your guest crew will hang on your every word, want to know where they are going and why? Many are professional people used to be in charge themselves. They are fascinated by your lifestyle, and the job you do. They will only come again if they like you as a person, feel a useful part of the crew, and that they belong to the boat whilst they are on board.

James owns and skippers Eda Frandsen and leads a great staff team
James owns and skippers Eda Frandsen and leads a great staff team

Help with Marketing – Swallow Your Pride

You can get everything else right but without this you go nowhere rapidly. In the early years you may have to swallow your pride and ask other professionals for help. Classic Sailing offers marketing assistance for a commission, so those owners that work with us only pay on results when we find them customers. We don’t compromise their independence and their are huge benefits to marketing you boat to wider audiences – as part of an eye catching fleet. It is also hugely comforting in the dark days of winter to be able to talk to other skippers turned entrepreneurs or Classic Sailing founders Adam and Debbie about the economic climate and holiday trends.

Your Website needs to make Big Waves in a Huge Ocean

Keeping Classic Sailing websites,, and social media platforms  high on search engines and relevant and interesting to customers takes up the majority of our marketing effort. It has been our main source of new customers for many years. Without giving way too many trade secrets – you need to understand website design and maintain content and design control of your website. We did the recent Website design update in house with technical support from Ali of ‘Sticky Source”. It needs to be constantly updated, vibrant and worth regular visits. To keep up with the other holiday competition you will need to use every trick in the book to get people to your site. If you can’t commit that much time to on line marketing then you may have to swallow your pride and promote your vessel through someone else’s website for a commission.

Photos Bonus Photos Bonus Photos Bonus

Marketing classic boats is a doodle when you think how good they look, it really is an example of one picture equals a thousand words. But for extra bonuses you want hundreds of photos.

Photo by Arthur Smeets - a tall ship sailor and professional photographer
Photo by Arthur Smeets – a tall ship sailor and professional photographer

Coping with enquiries all year round

People dream of holidays at weekends, in the evenings, at work on Monday morning, and some are planning their next holiday in their head 365 days a year. They can ring you at any time, and there is no real season for bookings. As soon as our customers have finished sailing they are thinking of their next fix of fresh air. Credit cards and access to the internet mean more people are booking last minute than ever before. The downside is you need a real person to politely answer the phone in at all times of year. You can’t do it when you are sailing, you don’t want to do it in the late Autumn because you are tired from the sailing season and nor can you do it in the refit season. All in all this does not leave a lot of time for you to effectively market yourself. Mobile offices at sea, only work if you have a large enough crew to entertain and keep guests safe whilst you answer the phone or e mails.

Not surprisingly this is where Classic Sailing can help you. We can help you market your own classic vessel but to maintain and build your own independence you have to start and run your own marketing effort.

See the Fleet and wide range of businesses and sail training organisations we help promote under the Classic Sailing banner.

Sailing Businesses under the Classic Sailing Banner

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