If you have ever watched a foal at its first attempt of standing and walking, it is very awkward and seems unlikely that it will ever end in success. Yet it does, as natural forces determine it has to, in order to survive.
This analogy often comes to mind when colleagues ask me about the potential of yachting in Asia or the Singapore Yacht Show. It is awkward and cumbersome to watch the industry grow and progress but market forces determine it must, in order to survive.
Personally, I believe the Asian yachting market and the Singapore Yacht Show is up on its feet but perhaps not yet galloping. There is much further to go but it is an admirable start borne of collective hard work and investment from the industry, governments and yacht owners. Some argue differently however, they might be lost in the nail-biting observation of its infancy yet with time and reflection, they could see some tangible changes to the Asian industry in the last six years.
Boating and yachting most certainly existed in Asia prior to the Singapore Yacht Show however, in the time I have been here I can name two international brokerage houses, two European luxury boat and yacht builders, one American equipment manufacturer and one European yacht service agency who have started operations in Singapore employing over 30 individuals – not even factoring the growth in neighbouring locations such as Phuket. Not huge numbers but more than the positive effect of employment, these companies and their brands have caught the attention of the global yachting community and now provide more services and choices for the consumer.
At last count, the Singapore Yacht Show has hosted over 20 Asian debuts of new models and the spectacular world debut of a Sunreef yacht. Of the 100 exhibitors at the Show, over 60% would be international. As the Show and market progresses, a proportion of these exhibitors will likely seek more permanent connections to Singapore either by opening offices or creating relationships with local companies – all of which leads to employment and more product offerings.
The marinas are full and looking to employ additional staff. There are proposals to build more marinas in close proximity to the main island of Singapore to meet demand. The only recreational boat yard on the island is full in the lead up to the Show and is also looking for staff. After decades of work by a number of motivated private citizens, Indonesia has modernised its attitude to marine tourism and cruising yachts opening the region right up.
I have worked in industry development before and these activities are the hallmarks of growth – employment, a marketplace rich with choices for the consumer, capital investment into infrastructure and changes to regulations to allow market demand to prevail. It is a testament to the market potential as well as dedication of local industry players working symbiotically towards a goal for a shared outcome – increasing the size of the pie.
A final point, which is perhaps missed in the discussion on Asia’s development of yachting, is its standing in the global marketplace. Yachting, like other luxury industries, has global clients. Where they reside does not always correlate to where they consume. It makes sense for the industry powerhouses to adopt a long-term strategy of investing into Asia’s growth phase to ensure their brand is entrenched in the narrative. Further to this, by being an active participant in a growing market, a yachting brand will have direct involvement in developing a strong pipeline to feed the more established markets and yacht shows.
Growth is difficult but necessary and requires investment in a concerted and focussed effort to produce a race horse.