Is the Singapore Yacht Show the Next Antibes or Fort Lauderdale?

The yacht sales director for Yachting Partners International is betting this week’s airfare that the answer is yes.

The cruising area around Phuket, Thailand, is filled with beautiful beaches and local boats. Photo by Kim Kavin.

As most of the world’s top yacht brokers converge on the French Riviera later this week for the annual Antibes Yacht Show, Russell Crump, yacht sales director for Yachting Partners International, will be touching down in Southeast Asia. He’s heading instead to the Singapore Yacht Show, which is being held on identical dates — and he’s betting that while his competitors are doing the same old, same old, he’ll be walking the docks into the future of yacht charter and brokerage.

“What I want to achieve is to see the foot traffic, the quality of the foot traffic, what other exhibitors are there, and what they’re showing,” the British native told me by telephone from Europe late last week. “This show in Singapore seems to be gathering momentum to become the big annual boat show in Asia.”

It’s a market that YPI Group is trying to tap through its YPI Asia division, which opened two years ago and has already evolved into three separate offices in China. Crump has been a key part of the effort to get those offices in place thanks to his local knowledge of Asia, having lived for a number of years in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila.

He sailed a lot around the Philippines and Malaysia, and he always wondered why more big yachts weren’t there, especially for charter. He finds Southeast Asia just as stunning a cruising destination as the Indian Ocean or the South Pacific, both of which are now seeing more and more megayachts visit from the Seychelles to the Maldives to Fiji to the Society Islands.

“I’m quite convinced that if we make Southeast Asia, say from Phuket, Thailand, around to the Philippine Islands, if we make them readily accessible and offer a charter solution, then people will visit these absolutely beautiful spots,” Crump says. “I think it could happen within the next three or four years. And from the charter business, that’s where the brokerage sales will come.”

Russell Crump is yacht sales director for YPI Group. Photo courtesy YPI Group.

Which Boats are Selling in Asia
Yacht sales happening right now in Asia, Crump says, are mostly occurring in China. Dealerships are doing better than brokerage hawks because the primary demand is for what he calls "the plastic fantastics" —high-quality fiberglass boats from builders like Azimut and Sunseeker, mostly in the 100-foot range.

"People dip their toe into the water with that kind of boat," Crump says, but the owners are like owners everywhere else in the world who dream of moving up. "The Chinese have a cultural issue where they have to have what they call face. They'll live in a shoebox of an apartment, but they'll drive a Ferrari because that's what people can see them in. So they'll move up to bigger boats soon."

That is, Crump says, as long as China’s luxury tax goes away. Right now, he says, it’s in the vicinity of 46 percent — which is prohibitive when it comes to buying what are already multimillion-dollar yachts.

Crump’s opinion is that during the next few years, there will be a domino effect that starts in charter and continues to sales. If he can help to make current megayacht owners aware of the beautiful cruising grounds in Southeast Asia, and if YPI can support those owners with three or four weeks’ worth of charter bookings to cover the costs of moving the boats there from the Mediterranean or Caribbean, then the wealthiest people in China and the rest of Asia will have more opportunities to charter along with Americans and Europeans. And of course, from a sales broker’s perspective, those Asians will also have a chance to enjoy the yachting lifestyle that they’ve been missing.

From that, Crump predicts, “One guy will then buy a yacht. A prominent guy will get the go-ahead from the Chinese government to do it. Then there will be a whole line of people wanting to do it, and the government will address that tax. This is why we have our whole YPI Asia operation over there. We’re just waiting for the momentum to start.”

| |YPI Group will have Shamoun on display at this weekend's Singapore Yacht Show. Photo Courtesy YPI Group.|

Sailing Yacht Shamoun Aims to Impress
YPI will be promoting the "modern classic" 108-foot sailing yacht Shamoun at the Singapore Yacht Show this week, using it as a foothold to open discussions about charter and sales in the region. Shamoun accommodates eight guests at a weekly base rate of $51,500 for charter through the YPI website, www.ypigroup.com.

Crump hopes that not only the Asians at the Singapore Yacht Show this week, but also the existing Americans and Europeans in the YPI client base will see boats like Shamoun as tough to pass up. With the American economy rebounding, he says, there is a real chance that its financial coattails will be big enough for Asia to ride into the future of yachting.

“America appears to be showing green roots at the moment, and it will drag the rest of the world with it economically,” he says. “Europe is still dragging a bit, but the rich are getting richer. I’m a genuine believer in the idea that Americans and Europeans will want to take holiday in Asia. It’s untouched, the people are beautiful, and the food’s fantastic. What more do you need?”