Photography by Blueiprod
The 9th edition of the Asia Pacific Yacht Conference, held 5 & 6 April in Singapore ahead of the Singapore Yacht Show, signalled a gear change from the previous years by delivering a higher level of engagement and more inclusive discussion on the top challenges, as well as the huge opportunities, facing the yachting industry in the Asia Pacific region.
Themed ‘Towards increased regional co-operation to promote marine tourism in Asia Pacific’, members of leading yachting and marine organisations came together to discuss updates on regulatory progress, marine tourism development and strategies for improvements in marine pollution levels, and more.
On day two, Peter Staalsmid (Sevenstar Yacht Transport) brought the conference up to date with ‘Trends in Yacht Migration’. Sevenstar operates lift-on/lift-off and float-on/float-off services, all around the globe, and was very much involved in the establishment of Porto Montenegro as a prime yachting in the Mediterranean – by transporting yachts to the location. Sevenstar routes go from Europe (Med) to the Caribbean, down to Florida and Costa Rica, and then into the Pacific to Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand and northwards to Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand) before making the full circle back to the Med via the Middle East.
In 2009, in the aftermath of the GFC and very much against expectations, Sevenstar was doing good business shipping boats out of the USA and out of Italy.
Asia? Well, the infrastructure to support greater numbers of visiting (big) vessels is still yet to develop, and Staalsmid’s advice to the various regional governments interested in cultivating high end yacht tourism is to “keep it simple, like they did in Montenegro.” Simple tax and immigration regulations, simple entry and departure procedures. “What Asia needs most is visibility. This region is safe, accessible – it’s closer (to the Med) and bigger than anyone in Europe realises. The charter regulations are not there yet, but they will come.”
A panel discussion involving MaryAnne Edwards (Superyacht Australia), Kiran Haslam (Princess Yachts), Vaihere Lissant (Tahiti Tourisme) and Lies Sol (Northrop & Johnson), considered marketing Asia as a yachting destination.
The consensus was that, since Asia is a very large geographical region, marketing should ideally be on a regional basis. That would mean the various stakeholders – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, maybe the Philippines, Ausralia, New Zealand and across the Pacific all the way to Tahiti – clubbing together to market ‘destination Asia’ in concert.
How about an ‘Experience Asia’ booth at the principal European and North American boat shows? An Asia Pacific Pavilion at the Monaco Yacht Show? If everyone could only be persuaded to act together, and not compete against each other.
A weighty percentage of the world boating population has difficulty finding Asia on a map, and has even less idea what it looks like. In short, the Asia–Pacific needs more promotion.
“Where are the Asian government representatives at this conference?” was the question from the floor, along with a dialogue on whether infrastucture development should be the remit of the private or the governmental sector, comments about some regulatory successes achieved by the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association and the puzzling question of why the boating industry in Asia is so very much run by ‘foreigners’.
When it comes to ‘Engaging the Asian Market’, Fabio Ermetto (Benetti) noted that Asian boat owners are not keen on chartering out their boats, and increasingly tend to view big yachts and superyachts as an ‘experience platform’ dedicated to the entertainment of family and friends – with a bit of business entertaining thrown in.
Allen Leung (Heysea Yachts) acknowledged that the China market has potential but is not yet big by any measure, and Anthony Gould (Galileo Academy) pointed out that some 70 percent of Galileo graduates come from outside Asia – and then continue on to find placements on Asian-based yachts.
‘Crew’ are very much recognised as part of the support that makes up the superyachting experience, and owners should be encouraged to run their boats through competent yacht management companies – although the Asian experience is often that owners often try to run their vessels “on the cheap” and this is a root cause of poor maintenance, invalid warranty claims, and excessively fast crew turnover – all of which contribute towards spoiling the ‘yachting experience’ in its entirety.
Would it therefore be a good idea or even mandatory for yacht dealers, builders and brokers to sell boats with a management package included in the price?
More that 12 hours of discussions, panels, and presentations generated a lively exchange of views over two days.
Chairman Martin Redmayne’s blueprint for the development of yachting in Asia will be framed and preserved, and delegates at the Asia Pacific Yachting Conference 2018 can look forward to checking whether some of the thoroughly excellent contributions have been implemented.