Vishal Sood is the owner of Jabudays, a yacht charter company based in Phuket, Thailand. Jabudays offers a wide range of experiences for different sized groups, for different occasions with an extensive fleet of vessels touring idyllic locations.
Vishal answered some questions about his business.
What inspired you to start offering yachts as venues rather than simply as transportation?
The first yacht that we owned “Jabuticaba” was a rather large yacht for Phuket with a capacity of 60 guests and a lot of space on deck. When we started operations boat charter companies would just take tourists to certain destinations and it was all about getting there.
Ours was a slow boat with a speed of 8 knots so it almost always took an hour at least to get from one destination to another so I thought about making an experience out of the journey rather than it just being about the destination and so we started to create an experience onboard.
Initially we started small with just having music with a DJ and then we added entertainment, games, water sports, massage and fun. From here I got the idea and inspiration of using the boat as a venue rather than a vehicle and we stared the first party boat in Thailand
What types of events/parties do you host on your yachts?
Wedding parties and wedding ceremonies, hangover cruises, pre-wedding Ice breaking parties, bachelor & hens parties, milestone birthday and anniversary parties, company parties, social networking parties such as for Inter Nations, team building events, we’ve even been part of an MTV India reality show. It also helped immensely that soon after Jabudays we set-up Jabu Events our full-fledged event management company as we began to get a great response to our onboard events that we decided to open one up on land. Jabu Events now supplements Jabudays with all its event needs.
We are the only yacht charter company to also operate an events company which is pretty unique in the sense that there are a lot of limitations of organizing events on a boat. A boat is a venue that’s constantly moving and shaking. To give you an idea all event equipment brought on board such as light and sound systems must be secured or else it will move and could cause damage as well be a safety hazard.
We understand these nuances as we have the experience of hosting events on board. Basically, we know what’s possible and how best to go about it in terms of hosting events onboard. Having said all of the above we do also offer plain jane cruises for guests who are not interested in any frills.
How do you select the destinations and plan your trips to give passengers the best experience?
Destinations are planned based on the distance, the speed of the boat, and the activities that guests would like to undertake such as diving, snorkeling, cave kayaking etc. Another factor is the amount of time available for the cruise. There are certain limitations for example for large groups such as 30 guests and above there are only slow cruising boats available with such a capacity therefore destinations must be closer for day trips.
For over night trips the largest boat in Phuket can handle only 16 guests, here the possibilities are endless as we don’t have constraint of time. Also, the further one goes from main destinations such as Phuket the more secluded the beaches and dive / snorkel sites are with lesser tourists.
For such destinations we require faster boats to get there and back within a specified time.
There usually is a lot of back and forth as each client is different and almost each one of our programs are bespoke to suit our client’s requirements
What are some of the initial challenges you had to overcome with your business?
The biggest challenge was the big crash of 2008 as we set-up shop at the end of 2007 and just as we began operations the entire world economy crashed. The first thing to go from holidays (for those fortunate enough to take them at the time) was extravagant spends on items such as boats and yachts. We really suffered the first few years. But with the crash entrepreneurs such as me had to get innovative and think out of the box.
We were a new and young company without much market presence at the time so we used available inventory for barters such as with airlines, hotels and other business. We ran marketing campaigns, contents where we offered free cruises, this really helped kick start our brand as even though our numbers weren’t good, we used our assets to build our brand. Another challenge was trying to change the mindset of guests who till now paid only for the boat to use as a vehicle of transportation but with our value-added services it was difficult to initially convince them of the fun they could have if they added some fun to their cruise such as entertainment, masseuses, water sports etc.
But once the economy picked up again its now the standard. Now we even offer master chefs to come and cook for guests offering a culinary experience to our discerning guests. Another great add on we offer is a sunset BBQ on a private beach.
Another huge challenge was staffing as till now boats were crewed with people who operate boats rather than people who can also offer a certain level of service as was required
Which one of your yachts has been the most popular with customers?
Jabuticaba was undoubtedly the most popular yacht till we sold her a few years ago. She was a classic wooden double masted yacht better known as a Turkish Gullet. She was imported from Turkey built in Bodrum using Mahogany and Teak wood. She had over 400 sq mtrs of deck space and was the ideal party boat in Phuket.
Initially we had 8 cabins but as she was mostly used for events and parties, we converted the 8 cabins to an indoor lounge allowing guests to continue partying in case it rained.
Even though its been over 2 years that we sold her our regular guests still ask about her. Ever since we sold Jabuticaba our catamarans have been pretty popular
Are there any plans to expand your fleet or your offerings in the future?
We are constantly adding new yachts to our fleet. Not all boats are owned by us, many are leased or have sales contracts. We are also adding new destinations in Thailand and we have already lined up a few boats in Bangkok, Pattaya, Samui and Krabi for 2019.
We will also continue to be innovative and challenge the market by re-inventing the entire cruising experience. At Jabudays we say its as much about the Journey as it is about the destination. So, you bring a good mood and some suntan lotion and we’ll take care of the rest!
Below is a clip showcasing Jabudays’s Yacht Charter on Jabuticaba