Yachtsman steers for true East
Vincenzo Poerio, helmsman for Benetti luxury yachts, brings a Mediterranean passion to his mission of telling the world’s wealthy about the good life. Sophie He reports in Capri, Italy.
Our strategy in China is to stay there ... to let our potential clients know our brand ... let them know that this (yachting) is a way of enjoying life.”
Benetti, an Italian luxury shipyard dating back nearly oneand-a-half centuries, is waiting patiently upon the Chinese market, confident that more rich Chinese will become its clients.
Benetti is part of the Azimut/Benetti Group, the world’s largest private consortium in the yachting sector.
“Benetti is in a very niche market, we have to look throughout the world, as our potential customers are the richest, there are not too many of them and the market is very limited,” CEO Vincenzo Poerio told China Daily in Capri, Italy, where the operators of the 143-year-old shipyard held a yachting gala on May 21 and 22.
Benetti builds semi-custom and custom yachts. Semi-custom yachts are available in several pre-designed models and range from 29 meters to 42 meters in size, with prices starting at 8.5 million euro ($9.46 million).
The custom-built yachts start at 50 meters and clients may design their own models, with prices starting at 30 million euro, according to the company.
Poerio pointed out that Western countries used to account for about 60 to 65 percent of the global rich, but the past 10 years have seen an exponential rise in the number of billionaires in China, as well as in other Asian countries, and this makes China more attractive to the company.
He said that a third of Benetti’s clients are currently from the US, while another third comes from Europe, including Russia. “In these areas where there are families that have been rich for centuries, they can afford a yacht.”
The Middle East and Asia account for the rest of Benetti’s clients. The Middle East is very stable market, said Poerio, given its rich families, which make up 10 or 12 percent of the company’s total customer base.
“Right now we are investing in the East. We are convinced that after so many years, the rich in the East have started learning about how to change their way of enjoyment, and if they understand what it (yachting) is and they like it, they will buy it.”
Poerio pointed out that there are a lot of rich people in China today, and they earned those riches by working very hard, so they probably already have a beautiful house, a beautiful car, and so on. But he believes the last masterpiece to own is a yacht, as it is the most expensive toy that anyone can buy.
“Our strategy in China is to stay there, and to show that we exist, to let our potential clients know our brand. It is important to invest and to let them know that this is a way of enjoying life,” he said.
Poerio said he is very happy to see that the younger generation in China is changing, they like swimming and they like outdoor activities, while the older generation did not even like sunbathing.
Poerio also mentioned that Western and Chinese buyers usually purchase yachts for very different purposes. “In the West, people use their yachts for enjoyment. If they own a boat, they will take their family and visit beautiful places and they will go swimming and relax.”
But in China, and maybe even elsewhere in Asia, people use yachts for business. They use them for business tours, invite their business partners on board, drink wine, eat great food, and talk business and do business together.
“Now we see more and more Chinese just using their boat for enjoyment like Westerners. One of our customers from Hong Kong SAR is always sending me pictures of him and his family taking the yacht all over the world for diving,” he said.
Considering the wealth and population of China, this is just the beginning, Poerio said.
Nizar Tagi, general manager of Benetti Asia Limited, covering markets from India to New Zealand, said the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong markets are the most important ones.
Benetti has sold 14 yachts in the last five years in Asia, mostly to Chinese mainland and Hong Kong buyers.
“The Chinese market, as we see it, is the one with the most potential, despite the slower economic growth. The company is still very optimistic about it, as the Chinese economic model is changing from being production-driven to consumption-driven, and the government is encouraging people to spend more,” Tagi noted.
Tagi admitted being very encouraged to learn that the number of billionaires on the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong has surpassed the US for the first time, as the wealth factor is very important to the company.
Benetti will allocate more resources to promote its brand to Chinese customers, said Tagi, adding that he found many customers in China had extensive knowledge about yachts, as they already owned smaller ones.
Tagi pointed out that in Hong Kong the big problem for Benetti’s business is the shortage of mooring space. “It is a chronic problem, we need to solve it. Last week three Hong Kong customers came to one of our shipyards in Viareggio, Italy, but we couldn’t offer them anything more than 100 feet (yachts), because there is no (mooring) space in Hong Kong for them.”
Tagi said Benetti has taken the initiative to speak to the Hong Kong government in order to discuss possible ways to solve this problem, but he expects finding the best solution will take time.
On the Chinese mainland, the main obstacle is that if people want to sail their yachts to other locations, they need to get permission from the local government and that usually takes two weeks, according to Tagi.
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