French Yacht Maker Recently Boosted Chinese Outreach At Hainan Rendez-Vous
With China’s upper crust currently in the midst of a yacht and private jet obsession, and south China’s Hainan island looking to become “the Riviera of China,” yacht makers continue their mad rush into the world’s newest and fastest-growing market. In recent years, China’s relative “old money,” those who made their fortunes during the 1980s or 1990s, have started to move beyond their early emphasis on conspicuous consumption, using their yachts to entertain guests, hold business meetings and generally connote status. As one Hong Kong shipbuilder, Samuel Wong, pointed out at a local yachting expo last month, “People in China first will buy houses. Then cars. Then the next step will be the yacht industry.”
Though yacht builders are rightfully optimistic about the Chinese market, with its hundreds of thousands of free-spending millionaires and expanding nouveau riche, the Chinese yacht market is no easy bet. Like the private aviation industry, which is dogged by opaque regulations and red tape and, as a result, is leading to a cottage industry in illegal “black flights,” yachting in China suffers from uneven regulation which differs from province to province, inadequate sailing infrastructure, inexperienced service and maintenance staff, and high import taxes. While these setbacks are largely due to the fact that China’s private boating industry is very much in its infancy, they are slowing the speed at which major international yacht makers are able to expand in this lucrative market. (And providing an opportunity for home-grown Chinese yacht producers.)
Despite these inherent difficulties, the French yacht producer Jeanneau has emerged as one of the more motivated sellers in the young China yacht market. Having sold three yachts and two sailboats at the recent Hainan Rendez-Vous in Sanya, Jeanneau has spent the first half of 2011 heavily pushing its Prestige series to Chinese buyers. As Jing Daily wrote in April:
The second-generation PRESTIGE yacht series has generated a great deal of interest at recent international shows due to its clean lines and spacious interiors. This has been especially true in China, where Jeanneau’s PRESTIGE 60 was awarded the “2011 Best Power Yacht” award at the Shanghai International Boat Show, confirming Jeanneau’s rising status in the Chinese yacht industry. Having only become available in mainland China last year, the number of PRESTIGE 60 yachts now in operation there has increased to five, impressive sales performance for a power yacht.
This week, MSN China reports that Jeanneau recently sold two more Prestige 60 yachts to Chinese buyers, increasing the total in China to seven. However, as MSN adds, the sale is just the first part of a serious logistical challenge that entails a 37-day shipping process from France to China. With transport arranged by the British firm Peters and May, the two Jeanneau Prestige 60s crisscrossed land and sea over the course of their 18,100 km (11,246 mile) journey, from a two-day police escort that began at the Arno Shipyards in Dunkerque and ended at the port of Le Havre, then onto a cargo ship that finally landed in Hong Kong after 35 days at sea.
Considering the logistical and transport challenges faced by European yacht makers when shipping their products halfway around the globe — which, it can be argued, are a selling point to Chinese buyers who appreciate effort on the part of a luxury-focused company — it’s not surprising that new Hong Kong and mainland China-based yacht producers are trying to exploit their proximity and improving manufacturing prowess to get an early jump among potential Chinese buyers. But with a certain type of aspiring (and wealthy) yachter indifferent to price, and eager to regale friends and business partners with the story of his ship’s globetrotting voyage to China, European yacht makers will likely retain a strong lead over their new local competition for years to come.