Antlos, a new online platform that connects travellers with skippers, is allowing the easy and affordable charter of yachts, in a similar way to booking an apartment with Airbnb. Ben Brown reports

The rise of the sharing economy is the biggest and most disruptive shift in travel this century. The likes of Airbnb and Uber are shaking traditional service providers to their core, using technology to cut out the middle-man and go direct to customers.

Now, a new player hopes to do the same on the seas. Meet Antlos, the Airbnb for boats. The service has the potential to make yachting more accessible and affordable for travellers, while giving boat owners the opportunity to undercut traditional charter companies.

Speaking to Globetrender, a representative for Antlos said: “Our platform gives [travellers] the leeway to enjoy something that is usually perceived as a luxury, and enables them to feel like the captain of the boat for the duration of their holiday.”

After signing up to the website, I am invited to choose from more than 400 yachts and their skippers in Italy, Greece, Croatia, Spain and the Caribbean. Once I find a destination and boat I like, everything is arranged directly with the captain through Antlos’s instant chat functionality.

I can arrange a personal itinerary including sailing lessons, scuba diving or sight-seeing. Even better, most of the trips are all-inclusive, so there are no hidden costs.

Antlos believe this gives it an edge over traditional yacht companies, “Unlike charter agencies, we believe transparency is key. We encourage skippers to offer all-inclusive holidays so the customer knows exactly how much they are paying, ensuring a worry-free booking process”.

Antlos yacht holidays

Antlos finally provides affordable yachting holidays…

At a quick glance, prices start at £49 per person per day and rise to £500-plus for luxury yachts. The average cost sits between £100-£150. Consider that chartering a private yacht often costs in excess of £2,000 per week, Antlos offers a very reasonable alternative.

By taking 6-12 per cent commission, the peer-to-peer company undercuts the traditional chartering industry where commissions range between 15 per cent and 40 per cent.

Much like choosing Airbnb accommodation, I am invited to choose from a “full boat”, “private cabin” or “shared cabin”. All yachts are skippered and cannot be hired without the owner or captain on board.

For families and couples, it’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy an affordable yacht holiday. Interestingly, it also opens up yachting to solo travellers, something that has previously been prohibitive. Charters are often group-booked and unaffordable for the budget sailor, but by choosing a “shared cabin”, individuals can cut the cost and meet new people on the open seas.

The arrangement is also uniquely beneficial for the yacht owner. Boat sales have struggled to recover since the 2008 recession, and total revenues were reported to drop earlier this year. Buying and maintaining a yacht poses a financial challenge for many owners, so renting them out will help balance the costs.

Antlos is keen to highlight this aspect of the service, “The platform is also built for boat owners who would like to convert their passion for sailing into a business. With Antlos, they can provide their services and receive a new source of revenue to help cover their boat’s maintenance costs.”Antlos luxury yachts

Does Antlos pose a significant threat to the traditional charter industry?

With just 400 boats currently listed, Antlos isn’t likely to usurp the major charter companies just yet. However, traditional agencies would be wise to look over their shoulder. The groundwork for the sharing economy has been laid by Airbnb, and consumer culture is irreversibly changed. Travellers are now more comfortable with peer-to-peer platforms and much more likely to embrace them.

The team at Antlos has thus far been smart about growth: “2016 is essentially the first season of operations of Antlos. [It has] proved our business model in the Mediterranean, [and] we will begin to start fundraising for our Series A round of investment during the winter.”

The company is based out of a venture-incubator called H-FARM in Venice. With a fertile startup environment and a team of experienced sailers, Antlos is poised for growth. Its plan? “Grow the team, continue to improve the platform, and build our brand awareness globally. New destinations will definitely be coming soon.”

For travel trends delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for the Globetrender newsletter.