For me, this year, the Monaco Yacht Show was a ‘tale of two cities’, with a surprisingly pragmatic acknowledgement of the realities the industry finds itself in offset by a noticeable upturn in the number of genuine clients, in comparison to the shows of recent years.
I’ve always found it a little tedious that show attendees felt it necessary to embellish the truth and assert that ‘business is the best it’s ever been’, when all around knew that simply wasn’t the case – and certainly not in recent years.
However, it is perhaps a sign of the times, that this year’s event was marked by a new discourse of honesty. Yes, things aren’t as good as they could be, and yes, the industry can claim nothing more than evening its keel. But the positive we can all take from this is that we are finally talking about it. And that is largely because this year’s event was the most diverse I can remember, with a broader range of ages and ethnicities, as well as an incremental rebalancing of the gender disparity. Clearly, this welcome shift in the superyacht labour demographic is catalysing a new way of tackling stagnation, and this year’s show provided clear evidence of that.
It may be stating the obvious, but if one really wants to gauge the number of potential buyers and charterers, they only need to engage the brokers, who do a lot of the sifting of wheat and chaff on the industry’s behalf. And it was extremely heartening to hear, in my conversations with the brokers, that qualified interest and viewings were very good this year. Indeed, it is not hard to recognise someone engaged in serious conversation, be it client or vendor. It is hard to say, unequivocally, whether the revised start time contributed to this upturn or not. But it certainly kept us journalists occupied offsite, with myriad breakfast press conferences, ensuring any clients that did fancy an early-morning viewing or two, could do so in privacy.
As a journalist, the surprise of the show was the purchase of MB92 Group by Squircle Capital, the owner of OneOcean Port Vell. This announcement, made on day one, sent seismic ripples around Port Hercules, although I should point out that the last few years have been punctuated by so many opening day acquisition announcements, that we should really come to expect it every year. However, as a symbolic challenge to the very concept of the ‘destination marina’, the owners of one of the most famous adding refit infrastructure to its portfolio suggests that the marina + infrastructure model is firmly in the ascendancy.
I’d like to close by saying that, despite the uncertainty about the industry’s short-term future, this year’s show offered what is the most spectacular showcase of what can be achieved. I for one, have never seen such a profoundly magnificent array of superyachts on show to the general public in one place. With the likes of Tis, Attila, Excellence, Syzygy, DreAMBoat and Aurora Borealis on display, to name a few, 2019 was the year that the superyacht industry showed the world what it really could achieve.
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