Bart Kimman is appointed to cover the Hong Kong region and Rene Ho in Beijing will be sourcing new business in the China market. Ho is also a native Chinese speaker as well as being a Dutch national. Both businessmen have strong experience in the yacht industry; Ho is director and founder of Martello Yachting, Beijing, a one-stop-shop yacht services company and Kimman is director of Northrop & Johnson HK, based in the region for 25 years.
Although the Dutch brand has yet to make a sale to either market, despite steadfast investment in Asia – the yard has attended Hainan four times and was at the Singapore Boat Show this year – the ‘on the ground’ presence is hoped to reap its rewards.
Jurjen van ’t Verlaat, public relations manager at Royal Huisman said:
“The regional managers are permanently based there which is very different to our [boat shows], which are irregular. Of course we try to go there several times a year, but permanent presence in a local network and knowledge of a local market certainly helps.”
Although Huisman follows the path of other European builders who have either appointed experts within Asia or opened offices there – Perini opened an office in Sanya this Spring – it has no correlation with any measurable increase in interest said van ’t Verlaat.
“We deliver, on average, one and a half yachts per year, so any change in numbers will go from zero to 100 per cent. Any changes in a new region will be in an even bigger jump, so it’s not easy to sense any trends.”
But van ’t Verlaat insisted that Royal Huisman was confident there would be interest, having already registered some “serious enquiries” from the boat shows in Asia and particularly attention gained from 57.5m ketch, Twizzle’s recent Asia tour.
“We feel interest from the region and interest in the yachts we build. If there was no interest then we wouldn’t be doing it, so it made sense to start this.”
Despite Twizzle being an excellent advertiser and promoter of the yard’s heritage as a sailing yacht builder, the company will be offering both sailing and motoryacht new builds.
“We’re offering the full scope of yachts, though our reputation is mostly on the sailing yachts.”
Van ’t Verlaat's sentiment did not suggest that securing a new sailing yacht order from Asia is something Royal Huisman should expect imminently. “Sailing is niche here (in the western world), it’s going to be niche there,” he said.
But Nautor Swan's Jimmy Cheung, who has been area manager Asia for the past year says he's witnessed a groundswell in change of attitudes towards sailing:
"The story up to now is that Chinese yacht owners enjoy their yachts because they are status symbols and as a major means of breaking through to a higher social status.
“But I find the mentality is changing now. More and more local regattas are happening and some yacht owners have started to enjoy sailing, as well as racing. The racing community has formed (even though they are small now) and they are learning fast.”