With the organisers of the Monaco Yacht Show issuing a recent update on the status of the event, and Managing Director Gaelle Tallarida recently giving an interview to SuperyachtNews, we convened an exclusive conversation with the secretary general of SYBAss, Theo Hooning, and the president of LYBRA, Raphael Sauleau, to garner their views on the show’s status and its direction.
The members of both associations made the decision to pull out of this year’s event, feeling that it is untenable amid the social rules imposed upon public gatherings due to the COVID-19 crisis, along with safety concerns and questions about the appropriateness of holding such an event in the midst of a pandemic. This has had a significant impact on the prestige of this year’s event, which is its 30th anniversary, with the associations acting as the representative bodies for a vast swathe of both the new-build and brokerage sectors.
The two associations requested the interview with us because they feel their actions have been misinterpreted by the show as adversarial whereas, in Hooning’s words, “they are quite the opposite”, saying that the decision was made with a view to working together with the show towards optimising the event for next year under a banner of collaboration.
“We are rather disappointed by the way this has been addressed, or not addressed as the case may be,” explains Sauleau. “Clearly, we don’t find this year very suitable for a show… [the pandemic] has had a profound psychological effect not only on our customers, but people [in general]. Having a show this year, therefore, is not appropriate – not just to get enough customers to attend, but for the image of our industry.”
From a moral standpoint, both associations feel such an event is not in keeping with the current status quo, with economies, and society as a whole, profoundly affected by the pandemic.
Aside from this ethical stance, Sauleau says there is an opportunity to use this disruption as a catalyst for overhauling the current events calendar and structure so that it offers better value to all stakeholders – organisers, industry, and the clients. “It’s an important time for our industry, including the show organisers, to think how we can move things forward. On the positive side – and this is where I think they have missed the mark – we want to sit down and discuss how we can work together to improve.”
Elaborating on Sauleau’s point, Hooning explains; “When the two leading associations in the industry write to Informa [the show’s parent company] and up to today, have still not received an answer, it is rather disappointing.” And herein lies the crux of the issue; both men feel this situation has been wrongly interpreted as adversarial, where, in reality, they felt it was an opportunity to actually enhance the level of collaboration between the show and the industry.
Both Sauleau and Hooning agree that it will be a shame for the blue riband 30th anniversary event to go ahead without the presence of the world’s top builders and brokers, which is one of the reasons they had hoped for a postponement to 2021, and the opportunity to collaborate on making the show the most impressive to date.
“But this was never discussed with us, and the reasons why we think 2020 should not take place [have not been acknowledged] … how do you guarantee the safety of the staff, exhibitors and visitors? There has never been answer to that, except for marketing terminology…it’s a hollow expression. There is something very real going on in the world, so how can you hold a luxury event in the harbour of Monaco? Within the Superyacht Life message, it is not appropriate.”
Furthermore, while Sauleau makes no secret of the fact both associations have voiced their disquiet with certain elements of the show, he feels there are practical considerations that may have been overlooked, including a lack of inventory, due to the impact of the virus on the traditional charter schedules, and the stringent protocols brokers would have to follow when exhibiting vessels to large numbers of clients.
When asked about what they would like to see happen moving forward, both men are in agreement that this represents a watershed moment that should be seen as an opportunity to start afresh and build a blueprint for the future of the yachting events sector as a whole. The two organisations are already part of a working group on this topic, incorporating interested parties from several yachting and non-yachting sectors, while Hooning says the invitation to Informa is still on the table.
Sauleau also questions the decision by the show to make this year’s event ‘not for profit’, citing the cost-savings to exhibitors as a step in the right direction, but far short of an overall solution.
“Our position is twofold: one is the position today, and the fact we have all been through a challenging time – as have our customers and the crew – and it is therefore, not the right time. And two, this is the right time and opportunity to discuss how we can make the event more client-centric, and forget our differences and instead work together for the benefit of the industry.”
The message from both SYBAss and LYBRA then, is that out of adversity arises opportunity, and this is an opportunity for all aforementioned stakeholders to build a better future. Both men emphasise their intention to work with all parties, including the Principality of Monaco, for which the show is such an important fixture. “The last part of our letter is about how we can cooperate to create what I call ‘futureproof’ Monaco”, Hooning explains “so that it will be the show, to show the world the wonderful world of superyachts and its lifestyle. But it starts with the simple courtesy of answering a letter.”
“The last three months have shown us a lot about [how we can do things differently and innovate in our practices]”, concludes Sauleau. “It’s the right time to sit down and look at how things can be done differently. None of us are invited to pre- or post-show briefings by anyone – not just Monaco – and I think that is a shame. Because I think it is important the industry as a whole has a say [moving forward].”
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