Andy Treadwell, CEO of Singapore-based Verventia, the company that owns the Singapore and Thailand yacht shows (SYS and TYS), has given IBI’s Asia correspondent the latest news about ongoing initiatives with local governments in South East Asia to develop yachting and boating business in the region.
Treadwell told IBI: “We made the focus of our approach to governments the immediate and tangible economic benefits of the superyacht tourism industry – the highest spending tourism sector in the world – which everybody wants. But the tax laws in key destinations like Thailand and Indonesia – and even, crazily, Australia – mean that foreign-flagged yachts can’t charter without paying tax on the full value of the yacht. Which, of course, no owner would do – so nobody comes here. That’s what we’re trying to change in the first instance.”
Thailand’s geographical position, exceptional natural assets, and relatively extensive yachting infrastructure all combine to put it in pole position to benefit from the massive potential economic impact of a fleet of foreign superyachts wintering in their waters. So Treadwell felt that Thailand was naturally the place to start, and has spent a lot of time over the past two years working with various government departments there, trying to get the rules revised. As part of this initiative, TYS was launched last year in partnership with the government, to provide a marketing platform for Thailand as a yachting hub. He insists that the whole Thai government are 100% behind the idea, and believes that a change is now imminent.
“Most of the 1,500 or so yachts that go to the Caribbean for the winter do so because they are free to charter when the owner is not using it,” he says. “Charter is an imperative part of their programme, because it helps defray the very high cost of running the yacht. Plenty of owners and captains would like to try Asia as an alternative, but they won’t come here – half as far again as the West Indies – to spend their millions of dollars, if they are going to be penalised with massive taxes if they charter. The government recognises this, and has indicated recently that a revision of the rules may shortly be possible. We just need to finally prove the economic argument, and, with the support of the Thailand Marine Business Association, demonstrate that the new charter licence system will work.”
Verventia also runs the Asia Pacific Yachting Conference (APYC) held annually in April alongside SYS, which has established itself as the major annual conference event for industry networking in Asia. The audience at this year’s ninth edition included a healthy number of government representatives from across the region.
Conference chairman Martin Redmayne spoke specifically about superyachts, and acknowledged the efforts that the APYC organising team has made over the last few years to get government and industry people around the table. He agreed that there should be a focus on the all-important missed opportunity to develop the superyacht charter industry, stating in his keynote address: “With only 5,000 superyachts in the world, it is a relatively small market, but it can be a significant wealth generator in its own right. The more that governments can do to encourage superyachts to come to the region, the bigger the economic benefits will be.”
Moving on to the promotion of the leisure boating industry in general in Asia, Treadwell believes that regional governments’ newly-awakened interest in the superyacht tourism sector will trickle down to benefit the entire marine industry. He explained: “The more that local people see yachts arriving and having fun, the more they will want to join in. And very few new entrants would start with a superyacht – they’ll buy or rent a small boat first. As more people with yachts of all sizes come to the region to cruise, explore and even base themselves here long-term, so the whole industry will grow – cruisers and catamarans, dinghies and day-boats, sportfishers and sailing yachts, toys and tenders – right across the board.”