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The changing face of superyacht design

If our potential clients are getting younger, how does this effect superyacht design?

The industry consensus is that superyacht owners are getting younger and the next generation of UHNWIs are taking the helm of the market. Through the various conversations we’ve had with industry stakeholders this shift, albeit marginal, is one that is having an effect on both the functionality and appearance of vessels.

According to The Knight Frank Wealth Report, in 2023, there will be 241,053 UHNWIs ($30m-plus) worldwide, which is a 22 per cent increase from the 2018 figure. The number of billionaires will see a similar increase of 21 per cent from the 2018 figure, which stands at 2,229 individuals worldwide.

According to Forbes, our assertions are correct, with more than 60 billionaires now under 40. So, if our potential clients are getting younger, how does this effect the superyacht market?

“I do believe that the age of UHNW clients is coming down,” says Justin Olesinski, speaking during The Superyacht Design Summit, while highlighting that this change is undoubtedly resonating within the process of design.

“They want things quicker and they want more of it,” continued Olesinski. “In the last five years we have noticed that on every project, we do about three times the man hours that we were previously doing, and that’s to make sure that the client gets their boat quicker and with more things on it.”

But it’s not just the expectations or the process of design that is changing from the previous generation; the interaction between designer and owner seems to be undergoing a positive transformation.

But it’s not just the expectations or the process of design that is changing from the previous generation; the interaction between designer and owner seems to be undergoing a positive transformation. “When you have the younger clients now, they are much more relaxed with you and want to chat and spend more time going through the project, explained Kate Maclaren. “Then you have the older generation who want to have a more formal meeting and for you to present to them. This is something that gets affected by age and attitude as well.”

Of course, the new generation’s approach to design and product development is still largely driven by personal preference. So, while younger clients may take a more relaxed attitude towards the superyacht design process, some will demand the more formal process that Maclaren is referring to, and this shouldn’t have negative connotations. But it’s a different approach that seems increasingly associated with the falling age of clients.

There are certainly aspects of the superyacht industry that are so entrenched in the yachting lifestyle that it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a drastic change, despite the fact that many are painting a far more relaxed and breezier attitude of this so called ‘next generation’ of clients.

“The service side remains a very important aspect, regardless of some owners who want to see the crew less,” explained Evan K Marshall. “Ultimately, they all expect top service and I think, for the younger clients, and any type of clients, it is something that they do insist on. When there are failures - when the owner isn’t enjoying the time on board - that is mostly down to the service side. No matter how relaxed they may be, they still expect things to be done right.”

Certainly, from my perspective, attitudes in the superyacht industry seem to be changing and it’s down to a multitude of factors, including the technology that is available to owners at present, to perceptions towards the environment, as well as shifting cruising patterns.

Attitudes in the superyacht industry seem to be changing and it’s down to a multitude of factors, including the technology that is available to owners at present, to perceptions towards the environment, as well as shifting cruising patterns.

The burgeoning explorer market is one that has been associated with younger clients, and a desire to really explore the oceans, whilst doing some kind of good with their vessels in the name of ocean conservation, is becoming more apparent. This is one trend in the market that is changing the appearance of superyachts and having an effect on how yachts are being styled with a slightly more rugged aesthetic.

So while the demographical shift in the superyacht industry may be nominal, I know that I’m not alone in saying it is having an effect on the superyacht design process. And, judging by Knight Frank’s predicted growth in UHNWIs, one can only imagine the design trends that will be with us in 2023.

During The Superyacht Design Forum in June, we will explore the future of yacht design from an external perspective. To find out more and to sign up, click here.

Profile links

Summit Furniture (Europe) Ltd.

Winch Design

Evan K. Marshall

Olesinski Limited

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

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The changing face of superyacht design

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