Last month, the Gold Coast City Marina hosted the second annual Australian Superyacht Rendezvous. Ocean Alliance, a Sydney-based brokerage and charter management firm, represented five of the yachts at the show. Managing director Joachim Howard and charter experience manager Laurie Foulon sat down with SuperyachtNews to discuss the direction of the Australian superyacht market, and why the industry should continue to embrace new experiences.
Happily, both Foulon and Howard have noticed a gradual shift in the conversation about Australia as a destination, a result of many years of campaigning by Australian superyacht professionals. “We talk a lot about how we market the destination as an industry, but I think that’s been on the shoulders of a lot of the key stakeholders for a number of years,” said Howard. “Myself and Laurie have been going to these international shows for a long time, and I think if we remember five or six years ago, it wasn’t even a discussion point with brokers if they wanted to learn more about Australia and send their clients here.”
Foulon, who used to work as a charter manager in the Mediterranean, has also observed a change in the industry’s interest in cruising in Australia. “We used to feel like it was us pushing information on them, whereas now they are grabbing us for information. It’s shifted and it’s a good feeling. It’s really rewarding.”
In her role as charter experience manager, Foulon stresses the importance of focusing on the region’s attractions that cannot be found elsewhere, such as the Whitsundays. “You need to sell the destination and then the yacht. It doesn’t come down to how ever many cabins the yacht has or how the master cabin is decorated. It’s so much more than that,” she explains. “The brokers really like that, as they are not just seeing the same stuff. It’s so different because it’s not promoting the yacht, it’s about what they are sailing around.”
The Ocean Alliance team argue that educating companies outside of Australia is the most effective method to truly draw a worldwide superyacht audience to its shores. If those who advise the owner or charter clients are aware of the possibilities beyond the Mediterranean, they can offer these additional options to their clients, and even attract new ones. “Charter brokers should be researching and looking at the new destinations, almost like captains,” says Howard. “They are the ones that should be promoting new experiences for their clients. Historically, brokers in the Mediterranean have always played it very safe because they don’t want to disrupt the client, they want to continue them on their journey they do every year because it’s safe. But, I think we’ve seen so many elements of that process change.”
"Historically, brokers in the Mediterranean have always played it very safe because they don’t want to disrupt the client, they want to continue them on their journey they do every year because it’s safe. But, I think we’ve seen so many elements of that process change.”
Ocean Alliance, who represent the recently debuted M/Y Oneworld, believe that these high-quality, Australian-flagged vessels are indicative of a growing market. “We are talking about new yachts coming into the Australian market (which are good quality yachts) and can compete on a good charter level,” says Howard. He adds that more Australian superyacht companies are becoming part of corporate organisations, such as MYBA, which is strengthening their place on the world’s stage. Foulon argues that, although the calls for changes to the Australian charter regulations are important, it’s also key to establish an Australian yachting fleet. “I noticed there was a big conversation about bringing yachts into Australia, but why don’t we try and focus on getting people on the yachts that are already here? Instead of bringing even more?”
The importance of having worldwide ambassadors for the region cannot be underestimated. The prominence of Australian crew in the superyacht industry, with only a small percentage of them having the opportunity to cruise in their home region, could be a method to encourage more crew to see their country as destination, as well as a place of work. This would enable Australian crew to continue working at home after their time in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, and also give them an opportunity to use their knowledge of the region. “Sometimes the yachts who come from outside the region would have no idea about the areas. If you take a yacht that is already here, with crew that are from here, the experience is so different,” remarks Foulon.
As superyacht charter clients are starting to change their preferences, looking for cruising grounds beyond the established realms of yachting, the development of Australia’s superyacht market is only set to grow. Additionally, a period of burgeoning UHNWI growth in Australia may bolster the domestic charter market.
Image courtesy of Gold Coast City Marina
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