Spaces   //   May 3, 2024

Corporate wellness boat parties set to be hot this summer

In the movie Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort strikes a lucrative business deal aboard his luxury yacht, surrounded by flowing champagne and other extravagances. It captures the allure and drama of conducting business deals in the exclusive and often cutthroat world of high finance, all against the backdrop of luxurious settings on the open water. 

Sure, it’s from a movie. But that’s not to say that it’s not a client’s favorite backdrop, maybe right next to an 18-hole golf course. Today, more and more companies are using boats to conduct business and even to celebrate their employees.

We spoke to numerous boat rental companies to see just how much employers do turn to open water as either an employee benefit, or to impress their favorite clients. Over the past few years, they’ve seen an uptick in customers hosting corporate events, even sometimes framed as a wellness opportunity.

For instance, Val Streif, marketing manager for global boat rental and yacht charter company Getmyboat, has seen a spike in people planning their events this summer, which correlates with other recent reviews the company has seen. According to its most recent data, “business meetings and functions” is the number two most popular reason to rent a boat, after birthday parties. 

While the company’s 2024 data isn’t set in stone because it isn’t yet peak season, Streif has seen more requests for boat rentals with people leaving in the comments that it will be for a corporate party. “There’s a higher demand this year,” said Streif. One CEO has requested a yacht to accommodate over 500 people, while small to medium-sized businesses have also enquired about this option.

Someone in Miami rented a 43-foot Catamaran for a corporate team-building event, while another booked a boat for a corporate event with a large group on South Carolina’s Lake Wylie where small groups were taken out for 30 minutes at a time. In San Diego, someone booked a 65-foot luxury yacht for a corporate event and in Austin, one reviewer described their boat rental as “more corporate wellness than a crazy party.” Others have used boats to host clients when they visit from out of town.

“It offers a very nice space,” said Streif. “It, in a way, sort of forces people to be closer together. You’re mingling with your coworkers. It’s interesting scenery where you are at. It can be a beautiful setting where you look out and enjoy the outdoors instead of being in an indoor venue that is static.”

"It can be a beautiful setting where you look out and enjoy the outdoors instead of being in an indoor venue that is static."
Val Streif, marketing manager for global boat rental and yacht charter company Getmyboat.

There goes the popular Irish goodbye at a work event, which is instead replaced by a shared memory being made, all thanks to an all-hands on approach from crew captains.

“I think a lot of people love it because boat captains and crew are very experienced with these sorts of things,” said Streif. “They’re good at setting up any kind of requests you have, whether it’s food, drinks, entertainment on board. They just make it very easy to plan something all in one, versus getting a venue, catering.”

The Chicago Electric Boat Company positions itself specifically to be able to host corporate events, with its website reading: “Chicago is a city that works hard, so we think it’s only fair that it should play hard, too. Companies large and small have taken advantage of our many downtown locations for everything from entertaining clients to team-building activities.”

Accommodating groups of anywhere between two to 100 people, customers can choose from options including: multi-boat scavenger hunt competitions, relaxing happy hour cruises, or celebration of a company milestone.

“The demand is definitely there, especially here in Chicago,” said West Weinert, sales professional at the Chicago Electric Boat Company. “Our summers can get booked up, even more so on the weekends. But corporate groups are planning for weekday events which is nice.”

It really does work for businesses of any size that are trying to impress and want to do something a little different. Carol Burke, who works at a small insurance agency, said that every year they have a holiday party at a restaurant, but last year they thought of doing a spring/early summer party on a boat as something new, fun and exciting. 

“We took a coach bus down to the city and had the main part of the boat to ourselves, and got to enjoy a delicious meal with beautiful city views and a sunset,” said Burke. “We even got to see the Statue of Liberty, which everyone really loved. There was a DJ and dancing, which was fun and added to the evening.”

She’s never done a sunset dinner cruise, which meant it was a first-time experience for herself and a lot of other colleagues, which made a fun memory for the entire group. 

Similarly, Carolyn Taylor, director of marketing and communications at North Carolina-based managed mobility services company OVATION Wireless, has been on a boat cruise for work before. In the past, they’ve charted a 42-foot yacht and cruised around Lake Norman. 

"We feel that experiences like this that are off land leave more of a lasting memory. Plus, they’re fun."
Carolyn Taylor, director of marketing and communications at OVATION Wireless.

“It was a personal touch and memorable experience for our clients,” said Taylor. “We feel that experiences like this that are off land leave more of a lasting memory. Plus, they’re fun. It’s more than the standard conference room, business dinner, type thing. We had our guests that came on the large yacht, enjoyed lunch, we had our business meeting, then afterwards you hang out and just enjoy the landscape.”

The company also celebrated its 10 and 15 year anniversaries with a sunset cruise, where everyone could bring a plus one, which was a huge hit. “We try to take every possible opportunity to enjoy our surroundings,” said Taylor.

And she hints that it isn’t just going to be a thing of the past for the company either, and she’s looking forward to planning the next boat event for the company.

“People are looking for newer experiences,” said Taylor. “A lot of people are not excited about going into a private room that is confined. This offers the open space, the open air. Go for it because all of the received feedback from employees, clients, and partners, is they absolutely loved it and can’t wait to go again.”