While mid-range yachts account for bulk of sales in the U.S. and Europe, China consumers are snapping up boats at the high- and low-end.
"Luxury boats are mainly sold to entrepreneurs who use it for business entertainment, some buyers tell us," says Cai. "I've already earned back the investment on the boat, just by doing a few deals on it."
Experts say the prospect of having a "floating palace" has more than offset the multimillion-
China's boat business has been picking up steam especially after Beijing specified "leisure boating" as a direction for tourism development. Several cities are vying to become China's Riviera, including Tianjin, Qingdao, Dalian in the north, Shenzhen, Sanya, Xiamen in the south, Shanghai and Hangzhou in the east. The number of marinas is expected to double to 60 by 2014. Regulators are working on cutting the red-tape involved in operating a boat.
“It’s amazing to see how boating is now part of the new luxury lifetyle of the second generation of wealthy Chinese. This trend is growing very fast”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a high end public relations agency targeting Chinese super-rich consumers.
Meanwhile, investors are taking note of the sea-change.
International brands — like Azimut, Princess, Sunseeker, are all expanding their China presence. Yachting related businesses like Nuvolari & Lenard - the custom super-yacht designer to the stars — plans to open a design centre in Xiamen in hopes of tapping demand from the mainland market.
But a lack of proper of proper infrastructure support for boat owners could be a barrier to growth. Right now there is not enough standardised marinas, fueling and maintenance facilities, as well as qualified people to run them. "China needs a mentor to improve infrastructure, we want to set up a school to train boating professionals here," says Eriberto Morsanuto, Asia country manager of Nettuno Yachts.
# # #
The leading marketing agency for tourism & travel Industry targeting the affluent Chinese Outbound tourists. China Elite Focus builds high impact marketing campaigns on the Chinese web for luxury hotels worldwide, Incoming Tour Operators, Tourism Boards.