- Opinion - All eyes on us

By SuperyachtNews

All eyes on us

The most dramatic moment at The Superyacht Forum 2022 was an inevitable reminder of the perils of perception…

The peaceful protest and demonstration from a group affiliated with Extinction Rebellion movement carried a simple message - there is no future for the superyacht industry. The full transcript can be read here. This demonstration, along with a smaller protest at Port Vauban during The Monaco Yacht Show in September should be taken seriously. Laughed off or disregarded by some, they are infallible indicators of simmering negative public opinion towards superyachts and what they represent.

Catalysed by the conflict in Ukraine and the focus on the assets of sanctioned Russian Oligarchs, the attention of a diverse set of media channels has been intensifying. The image we have reflected back has been incomplete, crass and mostly true.

Our humble-by-comparison newsdesk has been inundated with calls from top journalists from across the world in 2022. I am sure the same can be said for my yachting media colleagues. Instead of superyacht stories being sporadic pieces of celebrity-affiliated filler for the back pages, Editors have started to commission full features from skilled journalists with time and resources. 

The voluminous “the haves and have yachts” by the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos was one such piece. Sweeping and largely accurate, it inflated the image of hedonistic excesses and out-of-touch industry heads. Similar pieces from the BBC, FT and Reuters have started lifting up the rug and having a peak underneath. We have been ill-prepared for the scrutiny.  

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the perennially popular TV show  ‘Below Deck’ feeds a caricatured image of the industry to a wide audience. The result, as evidenced by a simple google trends analysis, is that superyachts have never been more prominent in the public discourse. 

Against the gloomy backdrop of the war in Ukraine, economic downturn, an unfolding energy crisis in Europe, and a dire prediction from COP27, the already precarious position of justifying the existence of these superyachts and the industry that they support will get harder. 

These yachts are built and operate, by and large, within liberal democracies. If their construction and operation become a political issue, the position of these shipyards, marinas and supporting networks, no matter how storied, may become untenable.

A point made by Extinction Rebellion at The Forum - that nobody needs a superyacht, is one that has been lightheartedly repeated in the industry echo chamber for decades. The fact that we are in on the joke is now irrelevant. 

We sit in a privileged position of influencing the world's wealthiest individuals. Zero carbon yachts, with diverse crews, and conscientious owners championing scientific agendas will survive the court of public opinion. But they are still some time away. 

The Forum and the protests were a wake-up call. The increased attention is here, the protests are likely to increase in scale and intensity, whether we were ready or not. The superyacht industry needs a stronger mandate in the face of criticism in order to continue to grow sustainably.





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