Written by MaryAnne Edwards
Discussions regarding boat shows always evoke a variety of emotions and opinions, but everyone I have spoken with confirms the need for well-organised boat shows in key locations in Asia.
The superyacht industry is a very social industry and as Kiran Haslam from Princess Yachts has humorously noted, “We are a bunch of people drinking, with a boating problem.” On a serious note, he also made the point that we are selling floating homes. And, the reality is, like any home, you want to immerse yourself in it before you confirm that is where you want to spend your time.
Therefore, the physicality of the sales process drives boat shows to showcase products. Kiran believes Singapore – a key hub and important first-world business centre in attracting and introducing the boating lifestyle to affluent Asians – is the right place to have a show that spans Asia.
He says, “We see a lot of clients that come from far and wide when we participate in the Singapore show. We would like to see shows become more intimate and not so focused on promoting the luxury lifestyle.”
The COVID-19 crisis has been a big stumbling block for boat shows across the world, with all being affected. Taking the long view will, as mentioned, be pivotal, and is one held by Andy Treadwell, owner of Verventia and the Singapore and Thailand shows. With a new show in Hong Kong launching this year, Andy has been developing shows in Asia for the last seven years and, like many others, has invested heavily in the region.
The vision of a Monaco of the East has had many turns, and the financial commitment required to operate shows or businesses in the region is often much greater than many expect.
Andy explains, “COVID-19 has obviously put a spoke in our wheel as it has for everyone. The financial cost takes its toll, but I am determined to maintain these platforms for the industry.
“And I am as committed as ever to my original vision of Singapore being the principal business hub of the new cruising destination that is ASEAN; Thailand as the yachting and marina hub of ASEAN; and Hong Kong in the north of the region as the gateway to the huge number of potential consumers for our exhibitors.
“I have had unwavering moral support from many of the world’s major yacht builders, equipment manufacturers and their local ASEAN dealers, but disappointingly, little government appreciation of the opportunity that is theirs, or the financial support that should come with it. However, times are changing, and we must all change with it.
Andy concludes, “Meeting the needs of the market is essential to our eventual success, so it is critical that we engage with and listen to the industry and try to develop the shows to meet their needs – and their budgets.”
The Singapore show is due to go ahead in October and will return to its scheduled date of April in 2021. Hong Kong will go ahead in November albeit with an eye on the political situation. Thailand is set to go ahead in January.
Peter Mahony Benetti Yachts Asia, sees the value of boat shows, stating “Boat shows are always important because they are a rare opportunity to compare products and see firsthand the different nuances of design and build that make each shipyard unique.
“I see the value for all the shows in Asia, but the most anticipated event is the new show to be held in Hong Kong, which remains the prominent yacht sales market in the region.”
Farouk Nefzi from Feadship concurs, stating: “Hong Kong is a place with the most potential buyers and a financial centre to facilitate the various transactions, not to mention 200-plus islands, which is a perfect cruising area. Hong Kong is the perfect place for a show.”
And he is not alone. Gordon Fernandes at Asia Pacific Superyachts continues: “Boat shows for our region play a big role in promoting the boating lifestyle. It is important that people see boats in the flesh, compare brands and get a feel for the lifestyle.
“Here in Thailand, I see our market really being up to 30 metres right now. We are likely to see fewer but more targeted shows. Someone buying a property will not be interested in going to a location that has every segment covered – they just want to look at the houses in their price bracket, offering the amenities they seek.”
Peter Staalsmid from Sevenstar Yacht Transport agreed the number-one location in Asia is Hong Kong. Boat shows are important and with COVID-19, more people are valuing family time, a healthy lifestyle and spending time with friends. The boating lifestyle offers this and more – and we need platforms that can showcase this to newcomers.”
Sunseeker International is another company taking the long view. Douglas Culverwell, Regional Business Manager, agrees: “Asia is a very important market for Sunseeker. The market is developing at an ever-increasing pace with greater numbers of boaters and marina facilities every year.
“To date, Sunseeker has sold in excess of 210 boats across the region and this is growing. As lockdown starts to ease across the region, our dealers are responding to an increasing number of enquiries; the demand is returning.
“As part of the promotional mix, boat shows have historically been essential to reach as many prospects as possible and will continue to be so in the coming years, even though it will be challenging in the near future due to the pandemic.”
I think we have all agreed boat shows have their place within the marketing mix, perhaps with some realignment as Andy Treadwell suggests, taking into account the changing environment and available budgets.
The business to business interaction industry has at shows is invaluable, and all agree it has led to not just business but the development of great global relationships. Indeed, everyone I have spoken with for this article I met at a boat show around the world. What a great network to have, but more importantly, it is something that is impossible to replicate via Zoom.