What’s not to like about exploring the China Coast, circumnavigating Australia, wining and dining on the French Riviera, or living it up on Miami’s hip South Beach? Big boat shows take place at such venues.
Well-heeled boaters may consider buying a motor yacht to impress clients, or for company conferences, or to facilitate incentive cruises. Perhaps the charter market appeals. Other visitors could try selling marine accessories, or even luxury brands, from fine wines and watches to sports cars and helicopters. Marketing, PR and media roles qualify, as do promoting exotic marinas and resorts.
Agreed payments, tax benefits and expense refunds can thus accrue, and some Asia-Pacific countries offer financial incentives to exporters. A rationale is needed for travel anyway. Why not mix business with pleasure, and use boat shows as a prime purpose for voyaging abroad? It’s fun, and personal contacts often lead to glamorous new lifestyle opportunities. Some youngsters even become superyacht crew. What are the current options?
Let’s begin with the powerhouses of North Asia: North China, South Korea and Japan. French lass Delphine Lignieres, founder of the Hainan Rendez-vous, has tried So! Dalian events since 2014 to hopefully attract Beijing boaters to this Russian-established coastal city in Liaoning. The next one, targeting people who have a passion for the sea and beach polo, is to be held on the weekend from July 8 to 9. Twenty brands are taking part.
Yantai, formerly Chefoo, on Dalian’s opposite peninsula, is where several superyachts have so far been built, including the 90m proa Asean Lady based at Raffles Marina in Singapore, and Nero, recently the largest superyacht shown at the Monaco Yacht Show.
South Korea, on the eastern shores of the Yellow Sea, is more formally organised, in a pleasure boating sense, with their Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries backing two events: the Busan International Boat Show (BIBS), held from March 23 to 26, and Korea International Boat Show (KIBS), held on the outskirts of its capital Seoul from May 25 to 28.
I visited South Korea’s second city Busan in 1986, ‘87 and ‘88 for the Asian Games Sailing, Pre-Olympics and Olympic Regatta, when the action was at the newly built Suyeong Yachting Centre. That venue is still used for the boat show today. Not a lot has happened in the past 30 years, but Busan and its famous Haeundae Beach are definitely worth a call, as is the offshore holiday island Jeju, still recovering from the loss of over 300 mostly schoolchildren in the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014. Another show, Yacht & Boat Korea, is trying to establish in nearby Changwon. It has not announced its 2017 dates at our deadline.
Japan International Boat Show (JIBS) is held from March 2 to 5. It has moved to Tokyo’s port city Yokohama. One can easily stay in Tokyo and commute daily, or Yokohama itself can also be quite interesting. After the heady entrepreneurial 1980s, JIBS has been relatively quiet, reflecting the country’s long, slow recession since then, but there have been recent signs that boating may be picking up. Tokyo and Sagami Bays have seen locally owned superyachts cruising their waters in the past, and the likes of Oceanco’s 91.5m Equanimity is among big boats making a recent return. Berth availability and fishermen’s rights are both issues in Japan.
Back to the China Coast, where Huang Zhengang, Secretary General of the China Boat Industry and Trade Association, says that there are now an astonishing 41 boat shows. Not all would meet our criteria for listing, so starting in the north, near Yantai, there is the yachting centre at Qingdao set up for the Beijing Olympic Regatta in 2008.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s around-the-world Clipper Race has had a strong association with Qingdao since 2004-05, and in 2012 the latest 12-strong fleet of Tony Castro-designed Clipper 70s were built there. Local lass Vicky Song became the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 2013-14 Clipper Race, and will make her usual call in at the 2017-18 event. Boat shows in the city, however, are sporadic.
This is not so in Shanghai, where annual events began in 1996 at the old Russian-built exhibition halls off Nanjing Road, near People’s Square. The show moved across the Huangpu River to the Shanghai World Expo Centre in Pudong for some years, and this year, the 22nd China (Shanghai) International Boat Show (CIBS), held from April 26 to 29, changes venue again to the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC).
SNIEC is located in Pudong too, but further inland. This joint venture display facility, whose partners include Messe Dusseldorf, was opened in 2001, and is thus not so new either. No easy in-water links, tried in the past, appear possible in the latest set-up, and CIBS Shanghai will be held alongside another unrelated mega show called Hotel Plus. Features this year are “Business Matchmaking” and “Superyacht Showcase,” although superyacht exhibitors are few and far between these days.
I’ve been to a dozen or more Shanghai boat shows, including the first one, and suspect that visiting Shanghai itself has always been the strongest lure for foreign exhibitors. There are few facilities for boaters, and local cruising waters are poor, so CIBS has become effectively a core marine trades event.
But this is also a city of immense wealth. Its citizens can and do keep quite big boats abroad, and the wife of China’s richest man runs a distinctively-coloured Sunseeker on the Huangpu. A separate approach is needed for this market. Ms Lignieres for example, has a discreet Bund Classic Cars event in association with Simpson Marine on the weekend from October 14 to 15. China (Xiamen) International Boat Show (CIBS) in Fujian Province, opposite Taiwan, is a different story, although like Shanghai it was a foreign trading port, known as Amoy, and crumbling colonial homes can still be seen on offshoot island Gulangyu, now a lover’s retreat.
In Xiamen some sizeable marinas have been built in Wuyuan Bay, and the 45m Feadship Helix was alongside during one event we attended recently. Locally owned motor yachts to circa 80 ft are used primarily for business-related cruises, and there is some sailing. Attractive destinations are nearby, and bonded store facilities are offered. Redevelopment of the Wuyuan Bay waterfront has caused the boat show, held in November, to be split into separate in-water and hard standing sectors of late, but like Sydney’s show, it is now re-merging.
American Nordhavn and Marlow brands are built in boating- friendly Xiamen, which displays a huge statue of Koxinga, a famous pirate-cum-patriot who once ruled the Taiwan Straits and repelled colonial incursions, notably of the Dutch.
Taiwan International Boat Show was relaunched in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16 in Kaohsiung, where most of the boat building yards are located, and it is presently slated for March 10 to 13, 2018, moving to a biannual schedule. Prime movers include Taiwan Trade or Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), Kaohsiung City and Horizon Yachts, one of the world’s top 10 builders. A new in-water exhibition centre and hard standing are located close to leading hotels and the Central Business District (CBD). Lately renamed Horizon City Marina, this facility can be visited anytime. Other well-known builders in Kaohsiung include Ocean Alexander, Kha Shing with its Monte Finos and American Hargraves, Johnson, President, Global and New Ocean.
Hong Kong International Boat Show at Club Marina Cove, on Sai Kung’s eastern seaboard, is held from December 1 to 3, 2017. A fairly full marina has restricted in-water display space in recent years. Hong Kong Gold Coast Boat Show at Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club, in the territory’s western approaches, is usually held late April or early May, but a substantial marina upgrade taking place means this event has been suspended until further notice. Various venues in Hong Kong-Kowloon CBDs have been tried when regional dealer Mike Simpson and I were running the Hong Kong Marine Traders Association, but choppy conditions in the harbour have always proved a problem.
Around the Pearl River Delta, apart from Hong Kong, there are boat shows in Shenzhen, Nansha, Macau and other smaller locations. Shenzhen rivals Hong Kong and Guangzhou, formerly Canton, on the fast-growing Chinese billionaires list, and its boat show held last year at Shenzhen Sevenstar Yacht Club has been evolving since 2007. Like Macau and the less frequent Yacht CN show at Nansha, these events are spread from late September to November, making it possible to visit say Xiamen, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau in a month.
Macau has established casino moguls. This group does buy big boats and charter superyachts, although vessels are kept in Hong Kong, Asia-Pacific waters, the Mediterranean and sometimes the Caribbean. The Macau Boat Show has oscillated between Fisherman’s Wharf near the Ferry Terminal and The Venetian on the Cotai Strip between Coloane and Taipa. It is presently back at Fisherman’s Wharf with upgraded in-water facilities.
Finally the Hainan Rende-zvous. I’ve called this island “China’s future Florida” since the 1970s, as assorted five-star hotels have been built there, and PR people have also added “China’s Hawaii” and the “Chinese Riviera.” Ms Lignieres again was the motive force behind the Hainan Rendez-vous boat, private aviation and luxury lifestyle showcase event that was launched in 2009.
The boatyards of Europe, America and Asia-Pacific have long coveted one place where they can showcase their vessels to Asian and Australasian clients, conveniently forgetting that Europe and America require many more venues, even for superyachts.
For a while it looked as though Hainan would be the new focus after Shanghai. Early teething troubles were overcome, and by the 3rd or 4th Hainan Rendezvous, displays at local entrepreneur Wang Da Fu’s Visun Royal Yacht Club and Hotel began to look really impressive.
However, when the five-year partnership between Lignieres and Wang broke up, each went their own way, and the character of the event subtly changed. The last Hainan Rendez-vous was moved back from its usual April 2016 timeslot to December. Dates for 2017 have not been announced so far.
South East Asia
The Singapore Yacht Show (SYS) at One° 15 Marina had in the meantime, been getting support. Some background here, when British outfit Informa bought Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) from Lord Irvine Laidlaw in 2005, it was decided to try to clone the MYS brand in America, the Middle East, Australia and Asia, in full frontal opposition to existing boat shows.
High-level presentations were made. America and Australia were not interested. The heavily sponsored, but sparsely-attended Abu Dhabi Yacht Shows lasted three years against the incumbent Dubai Yacht Show, and then folded. In Asia, Informa first bought Andy Dowden’s Phuket International Boat Show or PIMEX, rebranding it as “Asia’s largest in-water event,” and launched “Asia’s First Superyacht Show” in Singapore, which saw a handful of assorted boats huddling under heavy storms.
Changing its title to Singapore Yacht Show, the event later went head-to-head against the long-running Boat Asia, formerly at One° 15 Marina and then at Marina at Keppel Bay, by announcing it would be held on the same dates. Boat Asia closed. Informa earlier severed its ties with SYS, and gave Phuket Boat Show back to Dowden.
Despite this somewhat chequered history, Singapore Yacht Show is now supported by One° 15 Marina’s owner Arthur Tay, and has steadily built up exhibitors, attracting a few passing superyachts.
As a yacht show with high-value accessories on display, it is certainly the largest in Asia at present, and Singapore’s famed East- West ambience and central geographic location helps its image, as does the city-state’s growing reputation as the financial hub for the whole region. The next SYS is scheduled from April 6 to 9, 2017.
Meanwhile, six months apart, a new entity called Asia RendezVous, associated with YACHT STYLE and its sister lifestyle titles in the Lux Inc Media and Heart Media stables started a complementary boutique event called the Singapore RendezVous at Raffles Marina.
The first edition last October proved highly popular. It brought together all the key luxury components from properties, yachts, supercars and classic cars, to watches, fashion art, fine wines and champagne. Said a spokesman: “An affluent audience of 5,800 visitors had a chance to interact with carefully selected brands, and were able to broaden their interests and experiences. Yacht dealers in particular, reported many qualified leads, and exhibitors in general said the format was very successful. A second Singapore RendezVous takes place from October 5 to 8, 2017.
In Thailand, SYS started Thailand Yacht Show (TYS) in Phuket in February 2016 at Ao Po Grand Marina, having first announced a charter yacht show at rival Phuket Yacht Haven. Thai Government backing was obtained, and TYS was held again at Ao Po mid- December, only weeks before Andy Dowden’s 14th annual Phuket Boat Show (PIMEX) at Royal Phuket Marina over January 5 to 8, 2017. This was well-booked, and went ahead regardless.
The first TYS had more exhibitors than visitors. The turnout for the second TYS merely improved with the participation of leading local dealer Lee Marine, and organisers said 55 vessels took part, including the 90m Lauren L hosting a Titan Brokers party, the 41m Norman Foster-designed Ocean Emerald, 50m Northern Sun being offered for charter by Burgess Yachts, an eight-vessel line-up from the Boat Lagoon featuring a Princess 32m, and the steel Sanlorenzo 46m Forwin. The third TYS is scheduled December 14 to 17, 2017.
As this issue of YACHT STYLE closed, it was announced that PIMEX was taken over and rebranded Phuket RendezVous with an inaugural edition to be held from January 4 to 7, 2018, with Andy Dowden aboard and building upon his 14 years of experience. This is the second such event under the Asia RendezVous umbrella, and more are planned for other Asian cities.
In the Gulf of Thailand, the annual Ocean Marina Pattaya Boat Show at Pattaya-Jomtien is held in late November, and offers direct access to the Bangkok market only a short drive away, whereas Bangkok to Phuket is a one-hour flight. This event is normally well- attended, and vessels like Ocean Emerald above are based there for the last charter season.
Vietnam’s largest show is of a more maritime commercial bent, but some pleasure boats are also built on the coast. The 4th Indonesia Yacht Show takes place April 21 to 23, at Batavia Sunda Kelapa Marina in Jakarta, and there are other fledgling events in Sri Lanka and India.
Australia and New Zealand are advanced boating markets. The largest events on Australia’s East Coast have been at Sanctuary Cove from May 25 to 28 on the Gold Coast, the epicentre of the country’s boat building industry, and at principal city Sydney, from August 3 to 6. The latter has been split for several years while new exhibition halls are built at its lovely in-water Darling Harbour location. This year marks its return to one easily navigable central CBD venue.
Rest of the World
The Gold Coast Marine Complex near Sanctuary Cove has long been holding its own events, some conflicting with the ambient resort. This year, it has rebranded itself Gold Coast International Boat Show, to be held over three days from March 17 to 19. Riviera is a prominent participant, as is Gold Coast City Marina, which offers in-water berths to other non-Riviera exhibitors.
Other Australian capitals have smaller boat shows that can be checked out online. In West Australia, one well-supported event is at Mandurah, south of Perth and held from October 6 to 8, not far from Henderson’s Australian Marine Complex where 70m to 90m superyacht builders like Echo and SilverYachts are based.
Across the Tasman Sea, the more local Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show is held in suburban Auckland showgrounds from May 18 to 21, and the International Auckland On-Water Boat Show is in September.
Further afield, September is the month to visit Europe, when late summer weather lingers and the tourists have mostly gone home. Start at the superb Cannes Yachting Festival in early September, drive down the coast to explore the Genoa Boat Show and boat building centre Viareggio, perhaps calling at Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino in between, then finish with the inimitable Monaco Yacht Show. Paris, London and Dusseldorf are three other big ones, but they take place in mid-winter.
In the United States, Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show, held from November 2 to 6 in Florida, is a month after Monaco. Billed as the world’s largest, a claim challenged only occasionally by Dusseldorf, it spans five venues, and one could spend all five days in the principal Bahia Mar site alone. Miami is in February, and Palm Beach in March, geographically located on either side of Ft Lauderdale.
In the Middle East, the Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS) is held from February 28 to March 4, and is definitely worth attending for anyone who wants to get a hang of what’s happening in the always-evolving United Arab Emirates and the wider Middle East. Other boat shows are also held in Turkey and Lebanon.
Here, space decrees that we must wrap up this potted tour of particularly Asia-Pacific boat shows and their 2017 dates, hoping that readers have found something of value, and that they will check out more of these events this year and in the future.
This article was first published in Yacht Style 37.