BUILD­ING ASIA’S SU­PERY­ACHT HUB

Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show founder Andy Tread­well moved from Monaco to Asia nearly ten years ago and founded the su­pery­acht show that has be­come the cor­ner­stone of the in­dus­try in Asia. Here, he dis­cusses the suc­cesses so far, and the chal­lenges to come, in tur

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Yacht • View -

The Peak: Can you give us a pre­view of what vis­i­tors can ex­pect from this year’s Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show (SYS)? Andy Tread­well: We will have an even big­ger mix than usual of new prod­uct from the world’s lead­ing boating brands. Last year was a record for re­gional de­buts, and it looks like this year’s event will see even more. Con­tin­u­ously hav­ing new, top qual­ity brands on dis­play helps at­tract buy­ers from all over Asia.

It’s still the char­ter sea­son in Thai­land and In­done­sia, so it’s too early to con­firm the ex­act line-up of big boats, but there are a few spe­cial ones that we have been asked to keep con­fi­den­tial for the time be­ing. We’ve got a good show­ing of the 30 to 60-me­tre range, which is by far the most pop­u­lar in th­ese parts.

We’ve had some amaz­ing boats over the past few years – Anas­ta­sia, Ver­tigo, Twiz­zle, and Sil­ver Fast come to mind – and it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to get any­thing much big­ger into the ma­rina. But I be­lieve we will suc­ceed in our mis­sion to get the tax laws sur­round­ing for­eign su­pery­acht char­ter in Thai­land changed, and then we will see the global char­ter fleet start com­ing to Asia in num­bers – that will change ev­ery­thing, and then we can re­ally have a show. TP: The SYS has suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing a su­pery­acht ex­hi­bi­tion hub in Asia that hasn’t been achieved un­til now. What were the miss­ing in­gre­di­ents that SYS added/key is­sues that SYS ad­dressed to make it hap­pen? AT: Hon­estly, it’s about why you’re do­ing it – what’s the ob­jec­tive, what’s the strat­egy, is there a need for the in­dus­try, what’s the best lo­ca­tion – and who is do­ing it. We’ve al­ways had a knowl­edge­able, in­dus­try-fo­cused team at SYS, all in­cred­i­bly ded­i­cated, loyal, hard work­ing and pas­sion­ate – and this is what we do. We don’t do any­thing else – we are not a ma­rina owner, nor an as­so­ci­a­tion, a prop­erty player, or a me­dia group. We don’t have any other agen­das and we’re not try­ing to jump on any band­wag­ons to make a few ex­tra bucks – we just do boat shows, and we are to­tally fo­cused on that. And I have been pre­pared to in­vest – we’re try­ing to make it com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful too, oth­er­wise we won’t be able to con­tinue – but it’s a strug­gle in this in­dus­try and in this very ex­pen­sive lo­ca­tion. I be­lieve we will get there soon, but you need scale in the events busi­ness to be­come prop­erly prof­itable.

TP: You were orig­i­nally look­ing at other lo­ca­tions for the event that is now SYS, in­clud­ing Hong Kong. Why did a Hong Kong show not work out? AT: There were al­ready two shows in Hong Kong at the time (one has since ended), but even if the in­dus­try wasn’t happy with them and wanted a new one, it was not the right strate­gic lo­ca­tion for what we were try­ing to do. Why it didn’t work out with any of the pre­vi­ous shows is not for me to say – but prob­a­bly for all the rea­sons I’ve men­tioned above.

My busi­ness plan has never changed from day one – if you want to grow the yacht­ing in­dus­try in Asia, you have to start by get­ting gov­ern­ment in­ter­est to sup­port it. And the only way to do that is to fo­cus ini­tially on get­ting the su­pery­achts com­ing to the des­ti­na­tion part of the re­gion – South­east Asia. The big boats bring in the kind of eco­nomic im­pact and high-end, high-spend­ing tourism that gov­ern­ments want, but th­ese boats have to be able to char­ter in the main cruis­ing ar­eas. For boats com­ing from the Mediter­ranean, Thai­land is the first place they hit, and a cruis­ing area and lux­ury des­ti­na­tion they’ve all heard of. It then be­comes a whole lob­by­ing process – which has taken far longer in Thai­land than I bar­gained for – to get the ASEAN re­gion work­ing to­gether. Once we get a real char­ter in­dus­try hap­pen­ing here, then all the po­ten­tial new buy­ers in China and else­where will come out of the wood­work.

TP: The show is now in its 8th edi­tion. Can you de­scribe how the show has evolved since its in­cep­tion? What part of the show’s de­vel­op­ment are you most proud of? AT: It’s about try­ing to make it big­ger and bet­ter ev­ery year, but it’s be­come very dif­fi­cult to do that if we don’t get the rev­enues we need. Com­pe­ti­tion un­doubt­edly

holds us back, and spon­sor­ship is very, very dif­fi­cult in Sin­ga­pore – we’re look­ing over­seas now for fi­nanc­ing. If we could get the sup­port, we would all im­me­di­ately see the show evolve into a truly in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­place – we should be able to host over­seas me­dia, celebri­ties, and thou­sands of po­ten­tial buy­ers, and get busi­ness mov­ing for ev­ery­one.

So I’m not as sat­is­fied as I could be. But what I am re­ally proud of is the amaz­ing team that we al­ways seem to be able to bring to­gether ev­ery year. They are all ex­cep­tional peo­ple, and I’m proud to say they’re my team.

TP: Ex­hibitors at past shows have in­cluded a range of things out­side yachts, in­clud­ing art gal­leries, avi­a­tion and prop­erty. How have the seg­ments out­side yacht­ing grown (or de­creased)? AT: We’ve been asked to add more com­ple­men­tary life­style stuff – en­ter­tain­ment, re­tail op­por­tu­ni­ties for F&B, fash­ion, and so on, as well as the prop­erty and pri­vate avi­a­tion ven­dors who yacht buy­ers gen­er­ally want to meet – so that SYS ap­peals to a wider au­di­ence. But whilst it’s good to give vis­i­tors more rea­sons to come, I don’t re­ally want to go too far down that route – we’ve got a very lim­ited space, and we need to keep it a boat show. It’s more im­por­tant to show­case more of the marine life­style – wa­ter sports, fish­ing, div­ing, surf­ing etc – all the ac­ces­sories that you’d find on a big yacht.

I’d rather do other new shows in dif­fer­ent but closely aligned sec­tors that ap­peal to the same com­mu­nity we’ve built up through our yacht shows. That’s our plan.

TP: In terms of vis­i­tors, where do most come from, and what coun­tries do you see as po­ten­tial mar­kets in fu­ture? How im­por­tant is the show for main­land Chi­nese buy­ers? AT: About half our vis­i­tors come from Sin­ga­pore, and the other half – around 7,000 last year – come in from else­where in Asia. We could at­tract many, many more

qual­i­fied buy­ers if we had the mar­ket­ing bud­get to go out and get them. It’s not all about China – ev­ery coun­try in the re­gion has its fun seek­ers and its grow­ing af­flu­ent com­mu­nity – but China is ob­vi­ously a very im­por­tant mar­ket.

There are no proper boat shows there, and the gov­ern­ment is ac­tively dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple from buy­ing for­eign-built boats or any­thing else that points to con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. This means that the high-end life­style seek­ers from China are sus­cep­ti­ble to come to Sin­ga­pore to buy boats, and then keep them in Thai­land or In­done­sia.

In­done­sia is not re­ally work­ing as a boating des­ti­na­tion ei­ther, be­cause they have even more dra­co­nian im­port du­ties and dif­fi­cul­ties with reg­u­la­tion – but I think that will all start to change once Thai­land takes the lead and gets peo­ple com­ing to the re­gion.

TP: Can you de­scribe the Phuket show – has it been go­ing as you hoped, and what is your ex­pec­ta­tion from this new show in fu­ture? AT: The Thai­land Yacht Show (TYS) was launched by the Thai Gov­ern­ment – not by us – in 2015, and we were cho­sen to or­ga­nize it on their be­half. It was specif­i­cally con­ceived to grow the yacht tourism in­dus­try, with a ma­jor fo­cus on for­eign su­pery­acht char­ter, and to de­velop Thai­land as a hub for the re­gional boating in­dus­try. They sup­port it fi­nan­cially to an ex­tent, which is great, but we don’t yet get enough sup­port from the in­dus­try or from cor­po­rate spon­sors to make up the rest of a de­cent bud­get. It’s a shame, be­cause it’s a de­mon­stra­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to de­velop this sec­tor – and hav­ing worked very closely with them for the last three years, I can as­sure you it’s very gen­uine – so all the in­dus­try should be play­ing their part in push­ing that.

If we want to de­velop the in­dus­try, then im­prov­ing reg­u­la­tions – har­mo­niz­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing them through­out the ASEAN Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity should be ob­vi­ous and easy enough – and al­low­ing for­eign yachts to come here and char­ter is the best place to start. Thai­land, and specif­i­cally Phuket, is the best des­ti­na­tion for that, in terms of in­fra­struc­ture as well as cruis­ing grounds. Although it’s not a busi­ness des­ti­na­tion, it is where you can go and get out on the wa­ter and try stuff out. That’s what we want TYS to be­come – not just an­other boat show, more an ex­pe­ri­en­tial fes­ti­val of boating. Sin­ga­pore is the brand show, tak­ing place in the busi­ness, fi­nan­cial and lux­ury cap­i­tal of South­east Asia. So the two to­gether cover all the as­pects of the in­dus­try that that we need to be pro­mot­ing.

One of the prin­ci­pal, stated ob­jec­tives of the Thai gov­ern­ment is to get some of the 5,000-strong global fleet of su­pery­achts to start com­ing to Thai­land and South­east Asia, to make this re­gion a new win­ter des­ti­na­tion. Cur­rently, nearly all of the big yachts spend the sum­mer sea­son in the Mediter­ranean, and those that want to cruise all year round go to the Caribbean for the win­ter, where they can char­ter freely. But they have been do­ing this for 40 or 50 years, so it is time to try some­thing new, and there’s a fan­tas­tic amount of cruis­ing ar­eas to dis­cover in ASEAN.

Our aim with the two dif­fer­ent but com­ple­men­tary events is to raise Asia’s pro­file over­all as a yacht­ing des­ti­na­tion on a global scale. We are high­light­ing its amaz­ing cruis­ing grounds and work­ing to im­prove the in­fra­struc­ture for cap­tains and bro­kers around the world. In or­der to do so, we need to en­gage gov­ern­ments in Myan­mar, Cam­bo­dia, Thai­land and Viet­nam in the north­ern part of the re­gion, with Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia.

Has it been go­ing as I had hoped? No, not quite. It has been fan­tas­ti­cally mo­ti­vat­ing to work with Thai gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives who have al­ways been en­thu­si­as­tic and proac­tive in try­ing to get this whole yacht­ing project mov­ing. How­ever, one of the big­gest prob­lems we have had with the first three years has been the slow­ness of the process and the de­lay in get­ting the de­fin­i­tive go-ahead to launch each year. We to­tally re­spect that that’s the way the fund­ing process works, and there have ad­di­tion­ally been pe­ri­ods of na­tional mourn­ing de­lay­ing things for the last two years. It has meant that we have ended up with only two months each time to pro­mote and ex­e­cute the show, which makes it not easy. So now I am ask­ing them for a three-year plan and a de­ci­sion to change the VAT reg­u­la­tions and al­low for­eign su­pery­achts to char­ter in Thai wa­ters.

TP: Do you an­tic­i­pate bring­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion like SYS to Hong Kong in the fu­ture? If so, what are the main ob­sta­cles, in your view? AT: I do be­lieve there is room for a proper show in Hong Kong to sup­port the lo­cal in­dus­try there – and also be­cause it is by far the most ma­ture mar­ket in Asia (dare I say the only one for su­pery­achts, any­way), as well as be­ing the gate­way to the big­gest po­ten­tial buy­ing mar­ket in China. But for a show there to work, again, it would have to have the right strate­gic ob­jec­tives, have the sup­port of the whole in­dus­try, and prefer­ably the gov­ern­ment too – and be or­ga­nized in the best venue by a pro­fes­sional show or­ga­nizer. The 2018 Sin­ga­pore Yacht Show runs from April 12 to 15, 2018, at Sen­tosa Cove.

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