As an absolute newcomer to Asia, I was lucky enough to experience the Singapore Yacht Show last week with fresh eyes. In my conversations with industry experts, owners and fellow attendees, I found three common themes that dominated the discussions.
Firstly, there is potential, huge potential, but it's not there just yet. As highlighted throughout the coverage of the Asia Pacific Yachting Conference, superyachts are growing in popularity, and there are plenty of wealthy clients that are ready to be engaged with. The market potential is there and we are now faced with a chicken and egg situation; is it as easy as 'build it and they will come'? In my humble opinion, no. The industry is notorious for being behind the times when it comes to marketing ourselves. We need to find a message and deliver it to the right people, through the right channels. To succeed, we must understand the language (both literally and figuratively) of Asian clients.
Secondly, it's hugely important not to thrust a European-centric ideology on the area. Yes, Europe and America has established yachting cultures, but these have taken decades - if not centuries - to develop and thrive. There are yachting 'hubs' in the region, such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and it is therefore evident that Asia is accepting the yachting lifestyle, be it slowly. It's going to take time.
Rushing yachting upon the region will just cause immense teething pains. Yachting in Asia is in the position to pick and choose the successes of its predecessors, and if those involved develop it slowly, and correctly, and they'll only need to do it once.
Finally, the industry cannot expect a one-size-fits-all market. Just as siblings will share characteristics, yet be intrinsically different, the clients in Asia will have similar preferences to existing clients but will also demand different levels of service, request new designs and utilise their vessel to suit their needs. Within the 'Asian Market' you will find the Indonesian market, the Singaporean, the Japanese, and many more.
We cannot limit ourselves by assuming a region so large and vast, with so many different cultures, can be lumped together. Yachting must accommodate this, and to borrow a common adage: it's adapt or die.
It may be a cliché, but differences are what make us interesting. The industry should embrace the unique aspects and qualities found in the East. If we expect (and want) the Asian market to be a carbon copy of the experiences seen in the Mediterranean, it's going to get boring very quickly.