In my line of work offering chartered sailing expeditions in the Caribbean, I’m often asked what it takes to start this kind of business. While some may think you just have to get a boat and set up your business from the dock, I’m here to help everyone realise that it takes much more than a boat and a dream to put together a successful charter business. There are a number of responsibilities that you have to take on. You’ll also need to create a sound plan so you’re not going into the business blind. The following steps are some of the essential things you’ll have to do in order to start a charter business.
Create a Business Plan
You’ll want to start by formulating a solid business plan. This will outline your overall goal for your charter business. You will also have to figure out how you’ll reach this ultimate goal. A sound plan will answer questions regarding the size of the boat you plan to use, where you plan to sail, and what kind of clientele (type and group size) you plan to accommodate.
Design Package Plans
Once you get your business plan laid out you’ll want to think about and create the chartering packages that you would like to provide. Here, you’ll have to decide on whether or not you want to stay in the local waters of your Caribbean location or if you’d prefer to do longer trips into international waters. You will also want to figure out whether or not you’ll want to offer your passengers amenities like food and drink.
Decide on a Boat to Purchase
When you figure out what you want to do in your business, you’ll have to figure out the best kind of boat that will allow you to offer the things your plan discusses. For example, if you want to accommodate larger groups you’ll need a boat large enough to hold those numbers. Similarly, you’ll want to find a boat that will have the facilities necessary to accomplish everything you want.
Research Licensing Requirements
Before you begin business, you’ll have to figure out the licensing requirements for this type of business. You’ll need a proper pilot’s license in order to sail your boat. You’ll also have to get a separate license for commercial sailing since your boat will be used for business purposes. To take this further, I recommend looking into specific licensing requirements for the water jurisdiction in which you plan to sail.
Look into Insurance Coverage
Another technical aspect of a charter business is the insurance. You’ll want marine insurance that covers the boat itself (ship hull) as well as ship liability coverage that will cover property damage, personal injury, and safety accommodations. Take my advice; this is probably the most important step for opening your business. Find a local broker that you can meet with regularly to gain and maintain the proper coverage for this type of business.
Research and Obtain Financing
Most businesses will require some kind of financing in order to get off the ground. You’ll need money to purchase your boat, pay for ongoing expenses like insurance, and pay bills for the business. You might want to take on staff for a significantly larger boat and you’ll have to pay them, too. If you’re lucky enough to have the funds available this won’t be necessary, but it’s been my experience that most businesses require some form of credit until you start to turn a profit.
Begin to Market Your Business
Once your business is set up you should begin marketing your business within a set budget. You can choose to advertise in publications, on television or radio, or you can print your own brochures and circulate them to drum up business. Enlist friends and family to help you do this, if you need assistance reaching an audience.
Set Up an Internet Presence
Along with your marketing, you’ll also want to create an internet presence for your business so you’ll be found on search engines and within social media. Build a website for your business and make sure it is optimised for search engines (SEO) so your website will pop up when people search for Caribbean charters. Remember to use photos of your location in order to show potential clients what they’ll see. You’ll also want to set up some social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.) in order to interact with potential and past customers. You’ll also be able to share photos through these platforms, too.