To date China has proved to be the golden goose that has been reluctant to lay its eggs. But, that may be set to change as the Chinese authorities commit to Hainan, an island province in southern China, becoming the test case for the luxury yachting and marina market in the region. SuperyachtNews speaks with Arthur Tay, executive director and CEO of SUTL Enterprise, the owning company of One°15 Marina, about the development of the Chinese market and the Hainan Marine Tourism Summit, the first strategic summit for yachting, marine infrastructure and marine tourism in China. Tay has spent the last decade analysing the potential of the Chinese superyacht market.
“Affluence in China is growing at an incredibly fast pace and, increasingly, its residents are demanding lifestyle experiences that match their wealth profile,” starts Tay. “This phenomenon is clear to see when you consider Chinese national’s appetite for travel and luxury expenditure in nations all over the world. Chinese tourism brings 100s of millions of pounds to global economies, we especially see this at the One°15 Marina facility.”
On 28 and 29 November 2018, an international delegation of industry experts will meet in Hainan for the VIP Roundtable - Marine Tourism Summit, organised by The Superyacht Group. This event is driven by an express purpose of exchanging ideas in an open forum, in order to create a strategic document for the future of marine tourism in Hainan. Lawyers, tax advisors, insurance experts, yacht builders, marina consultants, owner advisors, brokers, captains, regulators and technical experts will meet with a number of Chinese delegates and government officials to create a road map for the development of the Chinese yachting tourism.
“Chinese nationals are already yachting internationally. The aim of the roundtable is to develop a strategy to develop the domestic market,” continues Tay. “At present, China is burdened by a number of outdated maritime policies for yachts. For example, the use of yachts in China is not permitted after 18:00. There are also various issues with caps and duties on luxury boats.
"The aim of the roundtable is to develop a strategy to develop the domestic market"
“However, the demand for maritime tourism has escalated dramatically in recent years. Now the Chinese authorities are enquiring seriously about how to implement effective maritime policy and develop the right infrastructure. They are eager, but they are currently unsure of which model to implement, the purpose of the roundtable will be to develop a strategy that guides them in the right direction.”
Hainan has been identified by the Chinese authorities as the prototype province for rolling out updated maritime policies to China as a whole. Hainan will become a special economic zone for maritime tourism. “They have already built a number of marinas, but few incoming foreign yachts are able to enter because of customs clearances and CIQP,” explains Tay. “Distinctions need to be made and regulations developed to deal with the various uses of yachts and superyachts in the region.”
It must be noted that this is not a superyacht specific strategic plan, rather it is the beginning of a holistic approach to maritime tourism, which will seek to engage yachting enthusiasts, tourists and the local community in every part of maritime culture, be it by encouraging local students to begin sailing as a sport, or welcoming the largest superyachts to the region.
“This is not just about owning extravagant luxury yachts, this about developing a community with various opportunities for economic spinoff,” Tay says. “We just want to bring yachting and marine tourism to the doorstep of the Chinese authorities for the first time and we want to make sure that it is done properly. In order for this to be successful, the software (the policies) and the hardware (the infrastructure and amenities) must be developed in tandem. In the past the misconception has been that yachting is for the wealthy, it’s not, it’s for everyone.”
"...this about developing a community with various opportunities for economic spinoff"
When people have talked about the development of the Chinese yachting market, the error has frequently been to concentrate on the conversion of China’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals into superyacht owners. The Hainan project looks far beyond that objective by considering the development of a maritime community on every level. Equally, the focus is not only on developing local economies and fostering yachting culture in Hainan, the project hopes to encourage visitation and engagement from the world’s mature yachting markets.
Much has been made in the past about the lack of yachting culture in China, but Tay is incredibly optimistic that, thanks to cultural homogenisation and changing attitude towards consumption, the Chinese yachting market is destined to be a success.
“The older generation are far more prudent in their consumption habits; they like to know that they are making the right decision and they are more averse to risk,” explains Tay. “But, the younger generation are already demanding greater domestic options when it comes to luxury lifestyle. In this technological world, they are already pursuing pastimes that their parents would never have considered. The second generation are much better off, they are confident and they are increasingly aspiring towards global luxury standards. They have experienced luxury all over the world and now they are demanding that maritime luxury is brought to China. If we succeed in this project, yachting and marina culture in Hainan will flourish.”
The VIP Roundtable - Marine Tourism Summit is a precursor to the Marine Tourism Summit that is to be held in 2019. The Summit will bring together international business leaders from the yachting, marina and marine tourism sectors, as well as a variety of Chinese investors, partners and government departments to establish a blueprint for marine tourism in China.
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