Portrait of Tammy Strobel


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Day 1 (April 5, 2017)

OVER 160 MARINE INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS have gathered for the 9th Asia Pacific Yachting Conference at ONE˚15 Marina in Singapore. This year’s theme – ‘Towards increased regional cooperation to promote marine tourism in the Asia Pacific’ – aims to highlight the need for the ASEAN countries to work together in order to grow boating in the region.

Andy Treadwell, CEO and Founder of Singapore Yacht Events, opened the conference by saying there has been “some progress, but for real change the governments in Asia need to embrace the needs of the boating community and work with the industry to grow boating in the region”.

Martin Redmayne, Conference Chairman and Chairman of The Superyacht Group, delivered the keynote address and spoke of Asia’s potential, but reminded the audience that the present increase in regional wealth doesn’t automatically translate into boat ownership.

“With only 5,000 superyachts in the world, it is a relatively small market, but it can be a significant wealth generator in its own right. The more that governments can do to encourage superyachts coming into the region, the bigger the economic benefits will be.”

Asian owners new to yachting also need to be mentored though the process of yacht ownership, as a negative experience will impact badly. The real question is how to engage this new audience in Asia and to make their experience of owning a yacht a positive experience.

Asia and the wider region has plenty to offer on the destination front and the next group of speakers from Tahiti and Indonesia presented how their countries are embracing the boating communities.

Manoa Rey and Vaihere Lissant (Tahiti Tourisme) shared their experiences of encouraging superyachts to visit their region. Tahiti is actively targeting yacht owners, captains and charter brokers, and has introduced simplified clearance procedures to encourage charter operations in the region. Tahiti is also educating local corporations and communities about the economic benefits that superyachts bring.

The Indonesian Government is also keen to encourage development of the upper end of the leisure marine industry. Professor Dr Indroyono Soesilo highlighted the maritime biodiversity of Indonesia that makes the country such a perfect boating destination, and although there is some lag between government policy and implementation, a number of sailing initiatives have been developed to bring yachts to the region.

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Indonesia has been concentrating on attracting cruise-ship custom of late and anticipates being able to convert the experience into further welcoming private vessels and superyachts. An extensive programme of sailing rallies over the years will culminate in the presentation of Sail Sabang starting in late November.

‘Progress Updates in the Asia Pacific Region’ was the topic for a panel discussion that included Nigel Beatty (Japan), Andy Shorten (Indonesia), Rico Stapel (Thailand) and Ruurd Van Putten (Vietnam), with the general opinion being that Asia needs to champion its own cause and actively engage by connecting itself to itself across the region.

“Cruising in Indonesia is not about being seen,” noted Shorten of The Lighthouse Consultancy. “It is about longer distances and an ‘unsupported’ adventure.”

In Thailand, visiting boats are getting bigger, and the charters are getting longer. The Thailand Charter Licence story has progressed, but is not yet entirely resolved despite the best efforts of the Thai Marine Business Association and strong support from the Ministry of Transport and Marine Department. Details lying with the Revenue and Immigration Departments remain to be resolved.

‘Designing yachts for a new generation of cruising in Asia’ produced some interesting observations from Erwin Bamps (Gulf Craft), Mark Stothard (Echo Yachts) and Stephen White (Sovren House Group).

Does the ‘standard model’ of a superyacht, privately owned and accommodating 12 guests, hold good today? Or are Asian owners look for a bigger corporate entertainment platform? M/Y Charlie, the 46m superyacht on display at this year’s Singapore Yacht Show, is designed both for corporate entertainment and adventure cruising. Sovren House Group has formed the Maha Yacht Club, which combines the luxury of a Feadship fleet with five-star hotel management, all run under a ‘membership’ platform.

The ‘Cleaning up Asian Waters’ panel discussion looked at how ASEAN government initiatives are making progress on the thorny subject of marine pollution. Internationally recognised conservationist David Jones (Plastic Ocean Foundation) talked about the business models associated with sustainability. Magafir Ali (Community Campaigner, Banda) showed how communities in Indonesia are actively supporting the clean-up process and Zara Tremlett (Phuket Yacht Haven) addressed environmental issues facing marinas.

Closing the day was a discussion on ‘How Asia can learn from the Mediterranean’. Industry specialist Ken Hickling (Sherpa 63), John Leonida (Clyde & Co), Oscar Siches (Marina Consultant) and Stephen White (Sovren House Group) offered insights into the homogeneity of organisation in the Med that is a long way away from the fragmented collection of regulations that face would-be Asian superyacht visitors.

Once again, coordination needs to be addressed as not everywhere needs to be a ‘hub’. There is a simplicity to be gained from specialising a little and being a ‘satellite’ destination, where another location becomes the hub. Med superyacht cruising is based on cultural history, a huge volume of traffic, short distances port-to-port, and a clearly defined ‘season’. This model hardly applies in Asia, and therefore lessons to be transferred must be carefully scrutinised.

After a relatively long day ‘in conference’, delegates were happy to gather for cocktails on the roof terrace of ONE˚15 and enjoy the view of the upcoming Singapore Yacht Show.

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Day 2 (April 6, 2017) 

Back at the tables on Thursday morning and 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 destination in the Mediterranean – by transporting yachts to the location.

Sevenstar routes go from Europe (Mediterranean) 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 a greater number 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,” Staalsmid said. “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, Australia, 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’s boating population has difficulty finding Asia on a map and has even less idea what it looks like. In short, Asia-Pacific needs more promotion.

“Where are the Asian government representatives at this conference?” came from the floor, along with a dialogue on whether infrastructure 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 Leng (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 superyacht experience and owners should be encouraged to run their boats through competent yacht management companies. However, 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 should it even be mandatory – for yacht dealers, builders and brokers to sell boats with a management package included in the price?

More than 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 executed.

Signing off from the back row and heading down to the docks for the opening ceremony of the seventh Singapore Yacht Show.

Photos Blueiprod