Day One closing session on superyacht communications drives vital discussion
Reflections on the industry and the road to 2030 raise critical issues about the present…
Day One of The Superyacht Forum Live 2021 finished with a double session that played out in a way that highlighted, both inadvertently and directly, the strengths and weaknesses of the superyacht industry. Chairman Martin Redmayne was joined on stage by Farouk Nefzi Chief Marketing Officer at Feadship, and Kiran Haslam, formerly of Princess Yachts, to discuss the importance of effective communication from the superyacht sector as we look ahead to 20230. After a fascinating day of conversations and engaging sessions, the last discussion was to take a more relaxing tone.
If the way we market ourselves is a reflection of how we wish to be perceived, then the session raised some pensive issues for the industry. One of the first major issues highlighted by Haslam and Nefzi honed in on the industry's notoriously banal standard marketing: Why are we so conservative with our marketing and communications? Are thousands of photos of the exterior of a boat really the most effective way to convey the experience of superyachting? And, as Nefzi pointed out, as the session followed a discussion on what we can learn from other industries, "Why are others not learning from us?”
Speaking at what will theoretically be his last edition of The Superyacht Forum as he embarks on a new challenge of a monumental construction project in Saudi Arabia, after seven years at Princess Yachts, Haslam took the opportunity to provide his candid reflections on his time in the industry. While he was effusive in complementing, "the most personal and personality-driven industry he has worked in”, he did not pull any punches in his assessment of the industry’s shortcomings.
Halsam made a strong statement on the industry’s often empty sustainability rhetoric. Namely, why do we focus so heavily on green fuels and propulsion? And as he pointed out, aside from engine manufacturers such as mtu (Rolls-Royce), we do not have as much influence to make the changes needed for the fuel revolution, and these conversations, like many others, are occurring too late. The fuel switch, for example, will be an offshoot of an infrastructure network that is beyond the control of the superyacht industry alone. We like to focus on the big-ticket items because they are fun to talk about, but also excuse us from making the micro-adjustments that may actually make more of a difference. Haslam used the example of the persistent use of copper-containing anti-fouling as an example; while significantly less glamorous, it is a toxic problem whose solution is much more in our control, and arguably more of an aggressive impact on the ocean we profess to love so much.
The lens was also cast back on the yachting media, with a call to be more direct in holding the industry to account for the promises that are made, especially around climate-related issues. Haslam used the example of an ambitious C02 reduction commitment that he had made publicly, about which he and Princess Yachts were never questioned again. We, as an industry, cannot continue to make erroneous claims on sustainability, and it is beholden on us all to ensure that these claims do not pass without scrutiny and accountability.
The most challenging conversation of the evening surrounded the issue of diversity and representation in the industry, and at events such as The Forum. In an industry comprised mostly of white men, it can feel inevitable that the most relevant people to speak to and hear from are also white men. The point was raised by several delegates, such as Belen Martin of Evolution Yacht Agents, that this simply is not good enough. The face of the industry is changing, and as one generation moves on, the next will not judge our apathy so kindly. The narrow focus of the yachting industry echo chamber has consequences, some of which were laid bare in one of the most engaging and challenging dialogues The Forum and the industry has seen in a long time.
Day 2 will continue with an honest assessment of our sustainability credentials from The Water Revolution Foundation, stay up to speed with SuperyachtNews as The Superyacht Forum Live moves into another fascinating day.
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