Ione Astondoa: Looking to the Future
Ione Astondoa, a member of Astondoa’s Management Board, is the fourth generation to work at her family’s historic shipyard but is focused on implementing a modern vision.
You’ve become the fourth generation of your family to work at Astondoa since it was founded in 1916. How did your role evolve to you joining the Management Board this year?
I started working in the shipyard 3½ years ago and wanted to learn about every department with a view to eventually joining the Management Board. I studied business and did a master’s in digital marketing, so used this knowledge to improve the shipyard’s communication.
Day to day, I head the marketing department, but I also work with the production department, which helps me connect the shipyard’s external and internal sides. I spend a lot of time with my father (Jesus Astondoa, CEO) and with clients, working on contracts, so I’m involved in a bit of everything.
How did you face the initial stages of Covid?
We had to go digital or we didn’t exist. When Covid stopped boat shows and clients from visiting the yard because they couldn’t leave their countries, we sat down and mapped out what we had to do. We changed and upgraded the website and all our social media, and invested a lot more in digital media and physical media.
We even premiered the new As8 by Zoom. It seemed crazy that dealers couldn’t visit the boat, but we had good feedback. Even now that boat shows are returning in Europe, we’re maintaining our digital focus. Both can co-exist and support each other.
Has it been challenging to be the first woman on Astondoa’s Management Board?
I want to say that as a woman, I don’t have any trouble. I have more challenges because of my age (28) as I’m very young for this position. It can be hard to make the rest of the team, especially the older staff, listen to me. I can push my dad to understand my vision.
If we mix his 40 years of experience with the new vision of young people, it’s a win-win and that’s what I’m trying to make everybody understand. It’s a challenge, but it’s okay when we see the results.
As Astondoa has a strong history and reputation, is brand exposure a priority?
For sure, we’ve had to work on communication because we already had the product, the design, the build quality. They’re the result of over 100 years of experience. But the communication must support the product, so we needed to make Astondoa better known for potential clients.
I think we’re doing fine. We have very good dealers around the world, in Europe, the US and Asia, who trust our brand and product. We’re looking to combine it all now.
Spain is such a great place for boating, so why aren’t there more luxury yacht builders?
We used to have more, but many had to close after the financial crisis in 2008. Astondoa also had some bad years, but my father didn’t want to shut the shipyard. There were so few Spanish clients because everybody was broke so he chose to look abroad and focused on the US.
Before the crisis, most of our clients were Spanish, then after the crisis, most were American. Now, the European market is recovering — the owners of the As5 and As8 at the 2021 Cannes Yachting Festival are Spanish.
Today, we have about 160 staff in the main shipyard in Alicante and facilities in Andalusia and near Madrid, and can produce about 30 boats of different sizes each year. Once you see the facilities, you understand how we can build yachts of this quality.
Your boats range from the 377 Coupe to the 125 Century superyacht, but what are your key models for sales?
The best-selling segment is from 52-83ft, which is our 52 and 66 Flybridge models, and the new As5 (57ft) and As8 (83ft). Many customers will start from 52-66ft and after five or six years go for the As8 or on to the Century superyacht range (100, 110, 125).
Can you tell us more about the As5, which debuted at Cannes?
The As5 has very modern lines like the As8 and the features of a much bigger boat, with the same finishes seen on the 100 Century. It’s very spacious as it has an almost 5m beam, over 16ft, so is much wider than its competitors. The saloon is very large, it has three cabins and three bathrooms, so it’s a very comfortable boat for 57ft.
Which brands does Astondoa compete with?
The most famous ones — Azimut, Ferretti Group, Sanlorenzo. These are the biggest. I really think our product competes with them.
What are sales like in Asia, where the Astondoa 102 For Your Eyes Only charters in Thailand?
There are a few Astondoas in Asia, mostly in Hong Kong where we have a dealer and I know the market is moving again. Asia is complicated, with so many cultures and languages. I know it will take time for some clients in Asia to switch to a Spanish brand, but if we follow the right steps, we’re going to get there.
This article first appeared on Yacht Style.
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