Insightful Interview with Benetti Chief Commercial Officer, Fabio Ermetto leading up to the ASR in Phuket
The renowned and respected Italian luxury yacht builder, Benetti has announced its sponsorship of the upcoming Asia Superyacht Rendezvous to be held in the breath-taking settings of Phuket in Thailand from 16th to 18th December. We have approached Mr Fabio Ermetto, Chief Commercial Officer of Benetti to talk to us about their upcoming sponsorship, their decision to expand to Asia, current trends in yachting on the Asian market, as well as his opinion in regard to the local yacht charter market in the present and in the future.
Benetti has a very important position when it comes to the European market and as a brand, it is well known throughout the worldwide yachting industry. When did the decision to expand to Asia come up and what was the main reason?
We set up our office in Asia since 2010. It is estimated that only 4% of super yachts are based in Asia where we have 2/3 of world’s population living and probably 2/3 of world’s wealth so market penetration is very low. Typical profile of a yacht owner is a centa-millionaire entrepreneur, who has other luxurious assets several expensive homes, a private jet and someone who likes the sea and sea sports. Also they tend to be family oriented persons with more than an average large family. Singapore for example is the region’s established base for luxury yachts, but limited cruising opportunities have seen interest spreading to neighboring countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia that have more potential because of pretty islands, yacht clubs, strong tourism industry as well as a strong expat community with a history of yachting. Andaman Sea around Phuket, Phuket-Krabi area, Indonesia’s 17000 islands, Burmese islands are all yachting jewels yet to be discovered by Asian and ROW clients.
Of course China is our strategic market in the region, we make Hong Kong as our regional headquarter since it is Asia’s financial hub, as much as NYC and London are for the American and European market. We have sold 16 superyachts in Asia of which majority was sold to Chinese clients. Benetti is very optimistic about the Chinese market for a plethora of reasons, of which two are unique to China: one is that China has overtaken the USA in the number of billionaires, and Beijing has also overtaken New York City as the city with most billionaires.
Above all, we see very good potential for us to develop market in Asia.
What was the motivation behind Benetti’s decision to sponsor the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous event?
The decision to sponsor the Rendezvous is a reflection of Benetti’s commitment to bring the authentic superyacht lifestyle and culture to Asia. This is one of the few regattas in the world that allows both motor and sailing yachts (75’ and longer) to participate alongside each other, with sailing superyachts racing on a course marked by power superyachts. Along with the organizers, Benetti will present a magnificent selection of superyachts to fans from the across the region.
There are numerous outstanding superyachts taking part in the race, are there any Benetti yachts participating in the event?
We haven’t confirmed the participation of the Benetti yachts as the owners are committed to other occasions since it’s holiday season. However, they appreciated the kind invite.
What do you expect from the ASR?
The Rendezvous is one of the most exclusive events in the world superyacht sector. With the increasing popularity of yachting in Asia, Benetti will be available at Rendezvous to speak and advise attending partners and boating enthusiasts.
How do you see the Asian luxury yachting scene developing over the next five to ten years?
Superyacht ownership is a relatively new area of interest for Asian billionaires and mega wealthy, after villas, sports cars and private jets. China has now surpassed America as the country with the most billionaires in the world, and that an increasing number of wealthy individuals in Asia are now pursing an ocean lifestyle through the use of superyachts.
Despite the positive outlook, there are also some critical challenges confronting the industry’s continued growth and development. There are not enough marinas and piers for superyachts to anchor in Asia overall. Moreover, Asians regard superyachts as a tool for business, more than they do a leisure product, which indicates Asians are still not used to a yacht lifestyle. The lack of qualified and experienced skippers and sailors, along with an underlying culture of diligence and frugality, also hinder the wider popularity of superyachts.
Reflecting on these issues, we believe this situation is slowly changing, as the next generation of Asian wealthy come through with a more willing attitude to accept a superyacht lifestyle.
We need to work closely with our agents in different markets to cultivate the yachting lifestyle and culture in Asia as well getting closer to our customers to meet their needs. For example, Asian wealthy care more about the interior of a superyacht, as opposed to the outdoor activities. We also help to work with regulators and sector participants to improve the environment and conditions for super yachting in Asia in terms of infrastructures and talent development.
From your experience, are Asian yacht owners willing to offer their yachts for charter or are they more inclined to keeping their vessels for private use only?
Asian yacht owners are more inclined to keep their boat for private use or corporate functions. Owning a yacht is a status symbol, yacht is the most luxurious of assets and used not only for leisure and family, but also for corporate entertainment use. You can choose destinations, crew is yours, and basically it is your asset and you can dispose with it as you decide.
Charter market is also at embryonic stage and destinations are not promoted as they should by major brokerage companies. We don’t have exact figures for Asian charter market but an educated guess would be that it is a minuscule 1% of the worlds charter market. Stricter rules apply to commercial yachts than yachts that are used privately. Private yachts are used solely for the recreational purposes of their owners and guests, while commercial yachts are intended to carry for reward a maximum 12 to 36 passengers, the number depends upon the registry, and are subject to stricter safety requirements. Moreover, commercial superyachts must be in Class and comply with Commercial Yacht Code Regulations, in accordance with the chosen registry, and International Conventions and Regulations (ie SOLAS, MARPOL, Load Line, STCW 1995, ISM…..) and minimum safe manning requirements. Owners of such commercial yachts navigating in European waters would also need to appoint Fiscal representative or agent in the several countries where the yachts start their charters. As an owner you can change your mind but it will be more costly than at the outset of the building process.
About Asia Superyacht Rendezvous
Organised by Asia Pacific Superyachts‘ General Manager Gordon Fernandes and former superyacht Captain Charles Dwyer the event will be hosted by SALA Phuket Resort and Spa offering luxurious accommodation and services for the attending guests with swimming pools in 63 out of 79 villas and suites. The invitation-only event will start on Dec. 16th with an ‘Opening Night Cocktail Party’ for owners and captains aboard the beautiful traditional phinisi-style sailing yacht Dunia Baru. The two-day regatta will culminate with the awarding of the ASR Race Winner’s Cup ceremony at the closing VIP Gala Dinner.