I’m pretty sure that the money I spent on my family and myself during my trip went into the Croatian economy. I’ve never been drawn to the “all inclusive”resort holidays where visitors never feel the need to leave their compound, partly because I’d question how you could ever experience the culture of a destination in that way, and also because such resorts are often owned by international corporations that transfer their income away through a myriad of internal charging mechanisms. A former brother-in-law of mine was a regular visitor to Mexico, buying a timeshare property there, but never venturing from his waiter-tended sun-lounger to spend his pesos in local businesses.
Like Mexico, Croatia needs the cash. Years of financial mismanagement by the communist regime, were followed by a war for independence that saw devastation to much of the national infrastructure, and an influx of refugees from the conflict elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. To this you can add the impact of the global financial crisis and corruption within the public sector.
They depend heavily on tourism for income, and are fortunate that their coastline and climate make them one of the top 20 destinations in the world, and with so many high-rollers plying the Mediterranean in their luxury yachts then they must have some big spenders making an impact too.
I was unsurprised at the super yachts tethered along the Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice; the city is synonymous with opulence, but this vessel moored in Dubrovnik was something else. Katara is more ship than yacht surely? Who could own this sleek white beast replete with four motor launches and a helicopter in matching livery (and surely there was a Bentley or a Bugatti below deck)? I’ll return to that question shortly, but first let me say a little more about these vessels in general.
I’d always thought of them as nice toys, owned by James Bond fantasists (or Bond villain fantasists at least) but really they’re no different to the all-inclusive compound.
Let me give you an example. Politicians in the UK recently voted to strip Philip Green of his knighthood following his sale of the BHS store chain which in time went into receivership with a huge deficit in the pension provision of its employees. Green owns three super yachts, the largest of which was delivered in 2016 by the Benetti yard at a cost of $150m. Lionheart has a patriotic ring to it which I wonder if he regrets now. I don’t know how much accommodation on board but Sir Philip and his companions won’t be paying in hotel bills, and with a full crew to cook and clean there won’t be much work done onshore unless he gets bored with the in-house menu. Supplies of food and fuel are needed to maintain such a major operation of course, but these could be taken on board before leaving the home port (in Green’s case Monaco for all of his boats), so the only guaranteed income for the port that hosts these floating mansions is the mooring fee. I hope the Croatians are charging heavily!
So back to Katara. There’s a clue in the name. Accommodating 28 guests and 60 crew she cost her owner $300m. Who has that sort of cash? Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa was the Emir of Qatar before abdicating a few years back. Now the Med is his playground while at home human rights are abused and migrant workers exploited so that a desert can host the World Cup in 2o22.
A final note about Lionheart. She is the largest vessel yet produced by the Italian boatyard, the previous holder of that title was Nabila, a craft that was later renamed as Trump Princess.
Interesting people these yachtsmen.