Ad­ven­ture tourism com­pany Deep­F­light Ad­ven­tures is set to launch a unique travel ex­pe­ri­ence in the Mal­dives — with trips aboard a spe­cially de­signed sub­ma­rine that “flies” un­der­wa­ter. Adam Wright, the com­pany’s CEO, ex­plains how it works

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Life -

Yes, that’s very much the case. One of the rea­sons we wanted to de­velop the sec­ond­hand mar­ket was to re­vi­tal­ize the mar­ket for new yachts. Hong Kong is a very, very ma­ture mar­ket and a great many yacht own­ers want to up­grade or buy the new­est model, but ob­vi­ously they also want to be able to re­sell their cur­rent boat. So we’re present in both mar­kets — we help them get rid of their ex­ist­ing boat and then we sell them a new one. There’s gen­er­ally a sec­ond­hand clien­tele in Asia; some of our boats leave Hong Kong. It’s the big­gest boat­ing cen­ter in Asia, with the largest fleet, and this gen­er­ates in­ter­est.

Six months to a year — it’s a very long process. And Hong Kong doesn’t make it easy for us, be­cause moor­ings

We want to be able to tap into peo­ple’s sense of ex­plo­ration and their in­ner James Bond, so to speak,” says Wright.

“You’re get­ting into an un­der­wa­ter air­plane — it looks cool, it feels cool and like you’re do­ing some­thing very ad­ven­tur­ous, whereas you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing that’s very, very safe.”

To de­velop the travel busi­ness, the com­pany’s tourism arm, Deep­F­light Ad­ven­tures, has part­nered with Shang­hai-based Rain­bow­fish Ocean Tech­nol­ogy, a leader in deep-sea re­search tech­nol­ogy. Wright says that the Rain­bow­fish con­nec­tion was de­vel­oped in part thanks to his Pu­tonghua language skills. He stud­ied me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, where he made many friends in the Chi­nese stu­dent com­mu­nity and de­vel­oped a keen in­ter­est in the language. Wish­ing to learn more, he stud­ied Chi­nese for two years at Yun­nan are hard to come by and clients al­ways worry about find­ing a place to park their boat. At Asia Yacht­ing, we guar­an­tee that our clients will get a moor­ing — we’re prob­a­bly the only ones in the mar­ket that do this.

When a client buys a boat from us, ir­re­spec­tive of its size, we guar­an­tee them a moor­ing at Aberdeen Har­bour. This is part of an over­all cus­tomer-care strat­egy. We don’t just sell the boat;

we aim to pro­vide all the re­lated ser­vices — the moor­ing, crew and Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity in Kun­ming.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to the US, he joined Deep­F­light to live out his pas­sion for sub­marines. “You can think of the ocean as the last re­main­ing fron­tier,” he says. “More peo­ple have set foot on the moon than have gone to the deep­est part of the ocean.”

A niche busi­ness

Deep­F­light has two main mar­kets: tourism and the su­per­wealthy, who want sub­marines as play­things on their lux­ury yachts. Prices for pri­vate two- and three-seater subs are in the range of US$1.5 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion, and the com­pany has sold seven so far.

Among Deep­F­light’s cus­tomers is busi­ness mag­nate Richard Bran­son, who bought a cus­tom­ized three-seat sub­ma­rine to use off his pri­vate Necker Is­land. “Sub­marines are a grow­ing trend among wealthy peo­ple, but still very much a niche busi­ness,” says Wright. “One of our main main­te­nance — to make their boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as en­joy­able as pos­si­ble. It’s re­ally how we dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves. We try to po­si­tion our­selves in a bit of a bou­tique seg­ment. This means un­der­stand­ing the client’s ex­pec­ta­tions and tak­ing a per­son­al­ized ap­proach — in find­ing the best boat for them and of­fer­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate kind of ser­vice.

We have our re­peat cus­tomers. An owner who loves boats will gen­er­ally get a new yacht ev­ery three to four years. It’s a key mar­ket for us and pri­or­i­ties was to de­velop the tech­nol­ogy to make a smaller and lighter sub­ma­rine, the Dragon. This opened the door to a wider va­ri­ety of clien­tele — you can now own a sub with­out hav­ing to own a 100- to 200mil­lion-dol­lar yacht.”

Can pri­vate own­ers drive their own sub­marines or do they need trained pilots? “Our pri­vate sub­mersibles are very easy to op­er­ate,” says Wright. “You have a throt­tle on one side to con­trol the speed and a joy­stick on the other side to con­trol the head­ing. It’s just like a fly­ing an air­plane. And to ‘land’ the sub, all you do is turn it off and it floats back to the sur­face.”

Deep­F­light Ad­ven­tures has cho­sen the Mal­dives — a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion with Chi­nese holidaymakers — to de­velop its sub­ma­rine tourism busi­ness.

The coun­try’s reefs and wildlife make it one of the top dive des­ti­na­tions, and Deep­F­light Ad­ven­tures that’s why we pam­per our cus­tomers — so they think of us when it’s time to get a new boat. We also have some new­com­ers, gen­er­ally Hongkongers or Main­land Chi­nese es­tab­lished in Hong Kong.

We’re clearly deal­ing with three gen­er­a­tions. First, there are the se­niors, who have al­ready had sev­eral boats and who keep up­grad­ing. Then, there are the dy­namic busi­ness­men, who mostly look for very new, in­no­va­tive things. Lastly, there’s the third gen­er­a­tion — peo­ple who just love the wa­ter and want to en­joy the sea. Our cus­tomers range in age from 20 to 75.

We try to of­fer the best there is for hav­ing fun on the wa­ter. Nau­tique, one of the brands we rep­re­sent, has de­vel­oped some ex­tra­or­di­nary lit­tle boats that carve such a big wave be­hind them that you can surf on it with­out a rope — that’s called wakesurf­ing. We in­tro­duced this new sport to Hong Kong and it’s be­come very fashionable. Many own­ers also have a boat like this to have fun with when they take their yacht out. wanted to send a strong con­ser­va­tion mes­sage by ex­pos­ing peo­ple to the wa­ters around the ar­chi­pel­ago.

Wright says sub­ma­rine ad­ven­tures are slated to com­mence in the fourth quar­ter of 2017, with ex­pe­di­tions last­ing from 45 min­utes to an hour and a half, at prices start­ing from US$549 per per­son. The com­pany has a part­ner­ship with Ocean Group, which of­fers wa­ter­sport ac­tiv­i­ties at re­sorts on the is­lands.

With its strik­ing looks and nim­ble un­der­sea per­for­mance, what car would Wright com­pare the Su­per Fal­con 3S to? “It’s a bit dif­fi­cult to com­pare it to a car — we try to com­pare it more to an air­craft,” he says. “But if you did have to com­pare it to a car, I would say … the Bat­mo­bile.” De­signed for the un­der­wa­ter su­per­hero mar­ket, pre­sum­ably.

There is a trend to­ward ecofriendly prod­ucts. Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy en­able us to limit fuel con­sump­tion. The fuel con­sump­tion of a Monte Carlo yacht, which is the top-end line of the Bénéteau group, who we rep­re­sent, is al­most half that of a boat of the same size 15 years ago. But we mustn’t kid our­selves — a boat works by push­ing through wa­ter, which re­quires en­ergy and power, and this is pretty in­com­pat­i­ble with all-elec­tric op­er­a­tion in the open ocean. Cus­tomer-ori­ented, hard­work­ing and fair. En­joy­ing life on your own terms.

Is it just me on the is­land? [laughs] I’d take only one thing — my boat, a Monte Carlo 80.

Of course! I’ve al­ways been on the wa­ter and I’ve al­ways had a pas­sion for it. I never sell a boat with­out try­ing it out my­self. That’s one more guar­an­tee of qual­ity for our cus­tomers.


Adam Wright stands in front of a cou­ple of his sub­mersible toys.

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