By Team DRW®
Meet Tim Johnson, visionary founder of TJB Super Yachts, a London-based superyacht charter and luxury travel firm with a team of 30 and offices in the Netherlands, Greece, Spain, India, Sweden, Australia, and the US. From superyacht charter and sales to new builds and yacht management, the former colour sergeant of the British Army has delivered over 1,600 superyacht experiences to yacht enthusiasts and families for over a decade.
Following a decade-long career in luxury jet sales, Johnson carved out his own niche in the market for first-time yacht acquisitions and charterers with the 2013 launch of TJB Super Yachts. In 2022, Tim founded TJB Private Travel, “a world-first for the luxury travel industry through an extraordinary, combined land and sea offering.”
This year, Relevance Yachts listed Tim in their ‘World’s Best 50 Yacht Brokers’ list. His latest office opening in Palm Beach, Florida offers a ‘boutique, personal and passionate approach’ to yacht brokering. In this exclusive, Johnson speaks to DRW about life as a superyacht broker, his unique approach to yacht brokering, and 2023’s top superyacht charter destinations.
Dellvin Roshon Williams (DRW): It’s easy to ask you how you got into yachting. A better question, I think, is what kinds of values did you adopt as a private jet sales broker that you carried over into superyachts? What are the similarities and differences?
Tim Johnson (TJ): There’s a lot of similarities between the industries – so I was able to make a smooth transition as a result of the values I adopted as a private jet broker. As such unique industries, it is important to be able to adapt to a fast paced sector which comes with high standards. Both require client-centric operations, it’s key to understand the individual’s needs, preferences and desires, and tailor your approach in order to exceed expectations. Integrity and trust is crucial, in both industries it is important our clients value our recommendations, honesty will build those long-term relationships.
Networking also provides valuable insights and opportunities for future clients – building relationships with owners, shipbuilders, and designers is highly beneficial. Finally, an in depth understanding of the market and being able to understand industry trends and having an environmental awareness are central to the UHNW travel industries.
DRW: Walk us through the TJB Super Yachts process for first-time yacht acquisitions and charterers. What does that look like?
TJ: For charters –
A prospective client would visit TJB’s new website or our social media platforms to browse and arrange to speak to a broker on the phone: to get to know them, choose destinations, and determine what the client wants to get out of your charter. The broker will showcase the wider possibilities available on charter to the client. With access to the entire market, the broker will share a tailored selection of yachts and sample itineraries, as well as offer the opportunity to learn about charter etiquette i.e tips. Before the charter, the broker will send a detailed preference form to complete – for them to then relay with the Captain. Throughout the charter, the broker serves as the first point of contact to assuage any concerns that arise.
For acquisitions –
With access to advanced technology, we can acquire any yacht on the market, whilst our first-hand knowledge also gives us personal access to an extensive selection of off-market yachts, enabling our brokers to create a bespoke sales strategy based on specific requirements. As one of life’s greatest thrills, our brokers will guide the clients through every aspect of the ownership journey, from contract to crew, keeping the process seamless and secure – as well as fun.
DRW: What is your approach to the art of superyacht brokerage?
TJ: Boutique is better – being a boutique and independent brokerage, we have an unbiased approach to everything we do. We have a close-knit team who provide our clients with a personalised service. The brokers are with the clients (virtually) every step of the journey to ensure a smooth charter and that all the requests are met, as well as flying out for each embarkation.
‘Our brokers will guide the clients through every aspect of the ownership journey, from contract to crew, keeping the process seamless and secure – as well as fun.’
DRW: How do you identify next-generation trends for high net worth travellers – particularly in superyacht space?
TJ: We closely monitor micro/emerging trends that crop up in the industry. These tend to become bigger trends in the following seasons. Some upcoming trends we have identified are as follows:
Increased Focus on Sustainability: The emphasis on sustainability is expected to continue growing, with a stronger integration of eco-friendly technologies, alternative fuels, and sustainable materials in yacht design, construction, and operation. Yacht owners and operators will likely prioritise energy efficiency, reduced emissions, and responsible waste management to align with environmental goals.
Advancements in Technology: Rapid technological advancements will continue to impact the yachting sector. This includes improvements in propulsion systems, onboard automation, navigation and communication systems, safety features, and entertainment amenities. Enhanced connectivity options and digital innovations will further enhance the yachting experience and streamline operations.
Customisation and Personalisation: Yacht owners increasingly seek unique and personalised experiences, leading to a rise in customised yacht design and construction. Yacht builders and designers will continue to offer bespoke solutions tailored to individual preferences, ensuring that each vessel reflects the owner’s lifestyle and desires.
DRW: What are short and medium to long run trends driving the luxury private travel industry? Are there any trends emerging that you did not expect?
TJ: On top of an increasing influx of younger first-time charterers, we’re seeing a growing interest from adventure seekers for a new, more boundary-pushing type of charter. Explorer yachts are therefore upping their standards of luxury, enabling clients to visit more far flung destinations whilst experiencing world-class on-board hospitality.
There’s also high demand for elevated, more holistic travel experiences – adding a new dimension to superyacht charters through the incorporation of land experiences too. The yacht is no longer the destination – our clients want to spend time in the locations they visit. We’ve recently launched TJB Private Travel to cater to this market, enabling our clients to enhance and extend their charter with the inclusion of exclusive on-land offerings – from the most sought-after luxury hotels to unique in-destination events.
DRW: What role does a ‘high-tech internal infrastructure’ play in delivering bespoke personalized services to TJB clients?
TJ: Behind the scenes, we’re proud to employ the most advanced industry technology and intelligence to ensure we can share the most up-to-the-minute market insights with our clients. We launched our new website in June 2023, featuring innovative and intuitive online tools for users to explore the charter and sales market for themselves, discover new destinations and build their own itineraries. TJB Super Yachts serves as a content-rich platform that gives clients the ability to compare yachts, create favourite lists and explore superyacht charter in an approachable way.”
DRW: What are the top superyacht charter destinations and why?
TJ: For the second year, Greece has been our top charter destination, commanding 25% of TJB Super Yachts’ charters so far this year, and it is no surprise it is the first choice. With thousands of beautiful islands to explore, some of the world’s most outstanding deserted sandy coves, beaches and picturesque fishing villages, Greece has something for even the most discerning travellers, with a charter season that extends through to October. Italy, France and Croatia are other destinations that are proving popular again, typically clients like these destinations as they don’t have to travel too far to charter and there’s lots of opportunity for activity and exploration as well as the consistent beautiful scenery of the Mediterranean.
DRW: What do you find most exciting about your Palm Beach expansion?
TJ: Over 50% of the TJB Super Yacht clientele is USA based and it’s continuing to grow exponentially – last year we completed over 215 charters to USA clients alone. There is no doubt that Palm Beach is the epicentre of the USA superyacht industry – the location is a great gateway to some of our most desirable charter destinations, such as the Bahamas. It is home of the iconic Palm Beach International Boat show, a key event in the annual yachting calendar which our team have attended for the last decade.
The area shows a future of increased economic growth – in 2021, the Town of Palm Beach Marina underwent a USD$40 million transformation and now provides 84 world class, state-of-the-art slips, which allows TJB Super Yachts to meet the demands for larger yachts from an exclusive marina.
Although we’ve always had a presence in the USA, we felt that this year was the right time to cement our positioning there. Nicole Haboush is our Senior Charter Broker in the USA, she is widely recognised in the industry and has been a resident of Palm Beach for 15 years, so her knowledge of the area is unparalleled. The most exciting thing about the new office is the opportunities it has to bring.
DRW: Aside from overseeing TJB Super Yachts and TJB Private Travel, what other aspects of your role do you find most fulfilling?
TJ: There’s lots of aspects that I find fulfilling about my role, particularly mentorship, prestigious travel and employing the values and team building skills I learned while I was in the army. I have also always enjoyed meeting clients from across the globe. They are some of the most interesting people I have met.