Craig Norris, CEO of our headline partner Victoria International Marina, explains why it is the perfect destination for the inaugural edition of The Pacific Superyacht Forum, taking place 28-30 June, 2020...
The Superyacht Forum is an opportunity to gather and explore potential futures of our industry in an environment encouraging healthy discussion and debate among friends and rivals. The Pacific Superyacht Forum will be a new chapter in the forum story, one that physically and mentally transports us to a space where we may be challenged to see through a different set of lenses.
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to mentor under a truly gifted and knowledgeable leader in change management. After consulting with his firm for a few years he made the decision to stay on with the company for an additional two or three years as project manager for a complex new endeavour the company had taken on. The decision seemed particularly difficult for him to make and I later found out why.
A couple years into his project-management role he was asked by the board and CEO to consider managing an upcoming fundamental change to the corporation. To my surprise, he declined. I questioned the decision as it was clearly in his area of expertise and was a very exciting challenge. However, he explained to me that he would not be the best choice for the job because he had been with us for too long and was now part of the proverbial corporate hairball, therefore making it virtually impossible to see the hairball for what it truly was – for that, the company would be best served by someone with a less-biased set of lenses. He said companies that do this are survivors.
It takes an immense amount of honour, wisdom and foresight to put aside your ego and pocketbook and do the right thing. Therefore, having heard from so many people in the superyacht industry that change is needed, I see The Pacific Superyacht Forum as an opportunity to look at our business from a new perspective and through a different set of lenses. Of course, we also need to put aside our egos and pocketbooks and do the right thing.
The Pacific Superyacht Forum will seek to create space for growth within many realms of our business. At the 2018 forum in Amsterdam, several seasoned leaders in the business explained that the pool of yacht owners and users was very limited and was at risk of shrinking. It seemed odd to me that the same conversation yielded conflicting factoids such as only four per cent of those that can afford a yacht actually do so and that the number of billionaires is now greater than at any time in history.
It sounded to me that there was a huge opportunity for anyone who could crack this problem wide open. Ninety-six per cent is a pretty massive growth opportunity, so why not consider these people more closely? There are certainly many types of potential buyers; two often stereotyped groups that we know very well are the young tech billionaire and the expat Asian. Then consider that San Francisco has the largest number of billionaires per capita of any major city in the world and that the Pacific Northwest is home to Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing to name but three.
The forum will be an opportunity to grow relationships. Having a forum on the other side of the globe will no doubt result in the forging of new relationships between businesses that otherwise have limited interaction. Europe’s superyacht leaders will be far from home and so this is a great opportunity for them to escape the distractions of day-to-day business while immersing themselves in a truly breathtaking and inspiring environment. The forum will also showcase and consider the latest and fastest-growing brand of billionaire, including the tech community spread along North America’s West Coast and the burgeoning Asian market.
We recently completed the construction of the Victoria International Marina, a purpose-built luxury green marina for yachts between 20m and 50m LOA. Over the five years that it took to plan, permit and build the marina, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know most of the yachting businesses in this region. Having also travelled the world to both market our destination and learn more about our potential clientele, it has become shockingly clear that we haven’t been doing a good job promoting the Pacific Northwest, as well as the greater Pacific. This region is not only host to some extremely successful yacht builders (that is Delta and Westport), it is also home-berth to more than 300 large yachts and has 27,000 kilometres of the most beautiful and pristine protected cruising waters in the world.
First-time visitors to the region consistently report to us that they are amazed by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the serenity of our cruising waters. I have also heard those who have not yet ventured to the Pacific describe their interest in experiencing something that contrasts the Mediterranean or Caribbean experience – something that offers adventure, serenity, privacy and inspires a sense of awe.
We believe there is a great opportunity to grow the market by offering new experiences for the traditional yachter while also giving access to somewhere that the other 96 per cent might just be looking for. The Pacific Northwest is just one of several cruising grounds of the Pacific that has such potential. We hope that by establishing a forum at the gateway to this region, leaders will see first-hand the massive potential for their businesses and will be ambassadors for the next big wave of growth in the industry.
Victoria is British Columbia’s capital city and is located almost midway between the nearby large metropolitan centres of Seattle, Washington and Vancouver. Physically isolated from the rest of Canada and the US by large coastal mountain ranges, these three cities are home to just under six million people in a region collectively referred to as the Pacific Northwest.
Victoria’s harbour is the first major port of call when arriving in the protected waters of the Pacific Northwest/Salish Sea from the open Pacific and it has a rich naval history. With the mildest climate in Canada, gardens bloom year-round in Victoria. The city is tied closely to both land and sea, and the rugged natural beauty of the Pacific Coast encourages all-season adventures in the great outdoors. Easily explorable by foot and at your own pace, Victoria can be as relaxing and rejuvenating as it is educational and exciting. It also has a diverse historical, architectural and multicultural make- up that comes from being the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, from First Nations history to British colonial and Asian traditions – and the landmarks, culture, cuisine, festivals and vibrant atmosphere that come with them.
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