In Conversation With Barbara Müller
Travel guru, yacht authority, experience creator and more, charter broker Barbara Müller has seen the yachting experience evolve over the years, but knows that some things will never go out of style.
It is peak charter season in the Med and Barbara Müller, senior charter broker at Ocean Independence, is flat out, planning itineraries, organising embarkations everywhere from St Tropez to Corfu and liaising with captains and guests. But with 12 years of experience as a charter manager, Müller relishes the hustle. No request is too difficult.
“It is all about making the clients completely happy,” she says. But what is it that makes clients happy today? “Today’s charter experience comes down to so much more than the yacht,” says Müller emphatically. “The whole package is important. Every detail. An outstanding, multi-talented crew, food prepared by Michelin-worthy chef, an exciting selection of the best toys.”
While Müller admits that client priorities have evolved – they increasingly value things like authentic experiences, health and wellness, being close to the sea – she says that the most popular charter destinations have not changed for years. Glamorous hotspots like the French Riviera, Sardinia and Ibiza have been attracting discerning travellers for decades, and Müller doesn’t see this changing any time soon.
“They are eternal classics,” she says. “They have something for everyone – the best restaurants, chic nightlife, great shopping and culture, excellent infrastructure, but also natural beauty and plenty of activities for all ages.”
That doesn’t mean that more unusual destinations aren’t in demand. As expedition yachts grow in popularity and owners take their vessels off the beaten track, charter requests for destinations like Greenland, Norway and Antarctica are becoming more common. “It is certainly no longer just about being seen,” observes Müller. “More clients want to go on real adventures; to cross an ocean, to go diving in Raja Ampat, to cruise the fjords in Norway or discover Antarctica.”
The wider trend for experiential travel goes hand-in-hand with this. Superyachts are becoming platforms for extreme experiences and for enabling guests to make the most of their surroundings. From heli-skiing to driving snowmobiles in Antarctica, Müller says that brokers are planning more charters further afield than ever before.
Today, really adventurous travel can be further enhanced by the addition of a shadow vessel – a boat designed to cruise alongside the primary superyacht carrying larger and more unusual tenders like submersibles and aircrafts, as well as fuel and extra crew. “Chartering support vessels is a fairly new phenomenon that has come with clients wanting to go further afield with more tenders and toys,” says Müller. “The possibilities that come from adding a support vessel – something like the 69m Game Changer – are very exciting.”
As the charter experience evolves, is the role of the charter broker changing? “We still need to be experts about the yachts and destinations, but now we also need to have detailed knowledge of unique experiences, adventures, and toys,” says Müller. “Communication has also changed. Clients use Whatsapp more than ever during the charter process so everything is a lot faster moving. You really have to do your research and know what you are talking about.”