Sign O' The Times: Yacht Sales, Private Jet Use Brisk

While most Americans are struggling to gas up their cars to get to work (or in New York bemoaning a possible M.T.A. fare hike), trophy yacht orders are up nearly 20 percent this year, according to a report out this week from the Luxury Institute and yacht broker Camper & Nicholsons International.

In 2007, 245 yachts over 130 feet were ordered–the average price tag of a motor yacht about 100 feet is $100 million–compared to only 134 in 2005. The increase is most likely fuelled by newly-minted moguls from Russia, the Middle East, and India, rather than from American tycoons who once dominated the trophy yacht market. But even in the U.S. sales have yet to plummet like, say, the housing market.

Though the Wall Street Journal‘s Wealth Report reckons that the superyacht market, at least in the U.S., is "poised for a downturn," at the moment the biggest problem for deep-pocketed, mega-yacht owners seems to be that they just can’t find any good help these days.

"Ironically, the biggest constraint to the industry’s growth isn’t the economy — it’s staffing," according to the Wealth Report. "[A]bout 25,000 crew members are necessary for today’s fleet of superyachts, but only about 15,000 currently work aboard yachts. Shortages of captains and engineers… are especially acute."

Gawker chose to put a positive spin on the report, noting that the staffing crunch could provide some much-needed job opportunities for the recently jobless masses in America.

Meanwhile, self-proclaimed Luxury Guru Lorre White noted similar high-rolling–or should we say high-flying–trends in the aviation industry.

As airlines cutback and commercial travelers are forced to contend with higher fares, unreliable service, delays, and the choice of a $5 can of Pringles or near-starvation, the "private jet business is growing faster than ever," as more of the super-rich convert 747’s and 767’s for personal use.

"Currently, there are more than 550 jetliners and business regional jets in private use," she wrote last week. "This fleet has more than doubled in size over the past seven years. Between 1997 and 2008, the market for big business jets grew by 15.5 percent annually compared to 10 percent per year in the same period for the rest of the private jet market."

Commoners, take heart! At least you don’t have a massive carbon footprint on your conscience. Sign O' The Times: Yacht Sales, Private Jet Use Brisk