View from the bridge: Showtime for superyachts. But should organisers step up their act?


Should superyacht show organisers polish their act? Captain Iain Flockhart thinks so.

With the yacht show season now in full swing and the daddy of them all underway in Monaco, as I pen this article, I want to take a look at today’s yacht shows and ask if they are moving adequately with the times, writes captain Iain Flockhart.

Over the year’s last   three months, the calendar serves up what are indisputably the most important shows for the industry. Cannes, Monaco, Fort Lauderdale, Abu Dhabi, Barcelona and, in the Caribbean, the Antigua charter show in December.

Yacht shows have, by default, always been glitzy and flamboyant affairs. It comes with the territory, naturally. The larger ones especially are indirectly fuelled by the staggering wealth of the ever-increasing number of individuals who drive the industry by purchasing and chartering the sumptuous vessels that are so elegantly displayed and showcased at these events.

I recently started to ask myself: Do these events, that are so important to our industry with all their glitz and glamour, serve everyone involved as well as they could?

I am not questioning the general value of the events to the industry, to the buyers and to the exhibiters. That clearly exists or they would not sustain themselves, and notwithstanding a level of disruption, the local communities do well out of them as well.

More relaxed, intimate and discrete atmosphere

As these events have grown and attracted more people, one of the things that has always surprised me is the necessity for the high rollers to mix and mingle with everyone else. Now, I’m cautious not to suggest a regime of apartheid based on the depth of people’s pockets. I am suggesting that if I were ever to find myself in the privileged position of being able to purchase such an asset I would much rather view vessels in a much more relaxed, intimate, and discrete atmosphere.

This may be especially important for those who have a higher regard for their own personal safety and privacy than most. But all this goes out the window with the general malaise of these events.

I  once attended a  show with my owner, at the time, and with others we formed an entourage of some 20 people. The whole experience was utterly chaotic for us  — let alone the other visitors/viewers, as we bumbled around numerous yachts with more than one other party viewing the vessels at the same time. The broker was way out of his depth in trying to manage the situation. It was uncomfortable to be part of this entourage, to say the least.

I appreciate that for the person who  operates  on a time-is-money basis, the possibility of being able to view numerous potential purchases over a couple of days makes sense. But it comes at a cost in terms of privacy and discretion.

What of the ever-increasing New Young Money that may have a more modern view of the world? Might that class of society  prefer to keep a lower profile prefer a very different experience while shopping for a boat.  How could we be catering better for this sector of clientele at the shows?

We live constantly immersed in technology these days. How might we focus new technology to enhance  experiences at these events? I am sure that brokers in particular could get stuck in to this goldmine of possibilities and exploit more engaging ways of enticing and informing their clients about their offerings. Simple necessities like mobile phone GSM reception and WiFi can certainly be improved.

Simple necessities like mobile phone GSM reception

For example, let’s consider the infrastructure of, say, Monaco if accommodation in the Principality is beyond your budget, which it is for many due to excessive demand and pricing. And, say, you choose to stay for an evening event, of which there are many, that are  important for networking, it is extremely difficult to get back to Cannes, or wherever you might be staying after 21:30.

I once waited in Monaco station from about that time until nearly midnight to get on a train that left dozens of people on the platform, as there was simply no room to take them. Would it really hurt to up the ante a little with the infrastructure for such an important event to help get people home?

Emerging markets are another interesting area.  Certainly, the industry is interested in them but  progress is still slow.  Old habits need to be changed and a different approach may be needed in Asia to persuade  people to part with their money for such a flamboyant asset as a superyacht.  I’m sure a well-planned show that accommodated the mindset of people in this part of the world  could be effective in  changing perspectives  in these markets.

There is a lot of clout behind the organisations that stage luxury yacht shows. But while they have progressed to some degree, they have not fully embraced everything that  could be done. In fact, they are still somewhat stagnant in terms of better accommodating the rapidly increasing number of potential buyers, and thus make the shows even more successful. Food for thought. If you have a view on how well shows serve the superyachting industry, please email Superyacht Investor’s editor Mike Stones.

About the author

Iain Flockhart is a highly-experienced yacht captain with more than 250,000 nautical miles in the role of professional captain since 1996. He grew up on sailing vessels but chooses now to work on motor yachts. He enjoys simple pleasures such as using his seven-metre RIB to go exploring and wild camping in his native Scotland. Iain is currently looking for new opportunities to command a superyacht.

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