Voyager’s Kevin Kwan on Hong Kong’s Changing Yachting Trends

Along with rising sales and arrivals in Hong Kong, local owners are now using their yachts more regularly and it is believed this will continue even once travelling overseas becomes easier.

Jul 28, 2022 | By Aurelli Lazuardi
Image: Kevin Kwan

With the pandemic seemingly ‘winding down’, most countries in the region are following the lead of much of Europe, North America and elsewhere by opening their borders and easing the complications and restrictions of travel. In fact, the yacht industry has been blooming during the pandemic including in Asia, as people have spent much more time in their home cities instead of travelling.

In Hong Kong, the local epidemic-prevention measures limited activities in public areas, so a private yacht became a great place to spend time with friends and loved ones. Now that the travel bans and limitations are being lifted in most countries, how will this affect the yacht industry in Hong Kong? Will it see the end of the ‘winning streak’ for the yacht industry or will demand continue?

Yachting activity here did have a break earlier this year when Omicron hit Hong Kong so hard that the whole city paused for almost three months. Yachting had been one of the getaways for high net-worth individuals when the previous epidemic prevention measures didn’t reach private facilities and areas. This was until the hardened measures that limited the numbers of family households in one private place, almost stopping all yachting activity entirely.

Image: Riva

However, did this new limitation really affect the yachting activities in the long run? In fact, it didn’t affect it at all. Even though the sea was quiet for those three months because of the ‘fifth wave’ in Hong Kong, the orders of new yachts and the brokerage businesses didn’t stop. New yachts continue to queue up for cargo shipment to Hong Kong; in fact, the queue is so long that a delay in delivery has become a norm.

As a preferred insurance yacht insurance broker in the market, we see new boats coming in almost every week. While one might think these orders were made in 2021 or earlier and the deliveries don’t reflect the current market situation, the arrival timeline of new production yachts does reflect the demand.

If you are to order a production boat now, the earliest delivery would be by the second half of 2023 and the queue is getting longer day by day. The demand for new yachts is still strong and doesn’t seem to be slowing down, even with the promise of a fading pandemic and increased travel opportunities.

Image: Azimut

That’s because boating has now become a new habit, a regular thing to do at the weekend for local yacht owners instead of occasionally.

The pandemic has changed how yacht owners in Hong Kong use their boat, especially the owners of bigger, 100ft-plus yachts. In the old days, before the pandemic, such owners didn’t use their yachts much – probably once a month or even less. The engines’ running hours were much less compared to average usage in Europe, for example. Now, luxury yachts and superyachts are everywhere in Hong Kong and the waters have never been busier.

Yachting Ecosystem

The pandemic not only boosted yacht sales and transactions; it also helped create an enhanced ecosystem in the yachting industry. Other than general yacht-related business such as dealers and brokers, shipyards, services and insurance, yacht owners are now more aware of crew and steward recruitment and yacht management.

Stewardship is becoming more essential as good stewardship provides a completely different yachting experience. To set a standard of stewardship service and attract the younger generation to enter this industry, several parties in Hong Kong are combining their resources to provide stewardship training programmes for potential candidates to expand the industry.

Image: Voyager

Last November, our CEO Tommy Ho and Mandy Wong were guest speakers in the ‘Job Opportunities of Local Vessels in Hong Kong’ webinar, sharing their experiences within yachting in a bid to attract more potential talent to the industry.

Yacht-service businesses are also evolving. General yacht-maintenance services no longer satisfy yacht owners. Lots of yacht-management companies now work closely with selected service shipyards to improve their businesses to offer a more tailor-made, one-stop-shop service that enhances the overall luxury experience of the yachting lifestyle.

In addition, new yacht clubs and marinas such as Lantau Yacht Club and Delta Marina opened at the right time to increase the city’s berthing and mooring capacity, with LYC purpose-built to cater to mid-sized luxury yachts and superyachts.

The yachting industry continues to grow in Hong Kong and shows no signs of slowing down. Although it seems that our lives are now going back to ‘normal’, the sails of the yacht communities are already hoisted and we’re still going full speed.

Image: Kevin Kwan

Kwan is Director & Head of Yacht Specialty Risks at Voyager Risk Solutions, which was founded in Hong Kong in 2018. He has spent over a decade in the yacht-insurance sector, having previously worked in marina development and planning.

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