When I first began writing about the industry I was quick to jump on any superyacht market trends. I was fascinated by even the smallest supposed alterations in the market’s trajectory. Today, however, my perspective has changed dramatically. I came to realise some years ago that, all too regularly, the ‘trends’ discussed by the market are more likely to be positive sales and marketing tools perpetuated within the market's echo chamber or a particular quirk that has been adopted by a small subsection of the ownership pool. Is it genuinely valuable to perpetuate notions that aren’t actually accepted or considered by the end-users that we are trying to attract? I argue it is not.
Throughout the pandemic one of the most pervading ‘trends’ has been the notion that buyers are starting to think about superyachts in terms of safe-havens. In theory, and arguably in practice, the concept stands up to interrogation. In a COVID-riddled world where interactions with the general public pose a very real threat, it stands to reason that the world’s UHNWIs might look at superyachts as a barrier between themselves and the infected masses. But, are superyachts genuinely safer than secluded mansions and complexes or private islands? Not really.
For a superyacht to be a true haven, its guests may quite rightly choose to remain at anchor, almost completely detached from any landmass, save for the occasional provisioning delivery. However, the number of superyachts that have done this across 2020 and 2021 are fewer than one might assume, in the grand scheme of things.
Regardless, innumerable respected sources have explained to me how superyachts have become the safe haven of choice for the ultra-wealthy. However, when quizzed as to whether or not any clients have legitimately spoken to them about this idea, without fail they have all admitted that, in truth, their clients have not mentioned it. Nevertheless, the market has repeated ad nauseum the 'safe-haven trend’ as if it was translating into business. If clients are yet to grasp this concept in any manner that transfers into sales, wouldn’t we better off focussing on the elements of the market that do translate into sales?
Perhaps unexpectedly, 2020 proved to be a record year for second-hand superyacht sales. It is clear, therefore, that some elements of the superyacht experience have appealed to buyers throughout the pandemic. Taking Hong Kong as an example, yachts and superyachts became arguably the most effective ways to exercise one's freedom in an otherwise restrictive environment, provided the person in question had plenty of cash at their disposal. One local source explained to me how, for the first time, superyachts were being used at weekends in the offseason and for longer periods. This proved to be the case in any number of locations globally and may be a catalyst for extended usage models, especially in many parts of Asia where day boating remains the most prominent model even for the superyacht contingent.
The allure, however, was more than just the immediate ability to exercise one's freedom. For many people, not just UHNWIs, the pandemic created an environment for reflection. People found themselves yearning for things that they had taken for granted and questioning what it was they wanted to do when the world opened its doors once again.
For those fortunate enough to have not been financially crippled by the pandemic, it resulted in the uptake of long lost or new hobbies or the completion of a task or renovation that had long seemed too daunting and too time-consuming within the relentlessness of normal life. For some, it meant planning a once in a lifetime trip that had always been playing on the back of their minds and for some privileged UHNWIs, it meant committing to the superyacht purchase that they had been sitting on the fence about for several years.
The ‘trend’ for 2020 was, in fact, introspection, taking the time to look inwards and assess one's own wants and desires, and this should have been the focus of the superyacht market’s rhetoric. The safe-haven ‘trend’ was an easy marketing tool that, in reality, had very little bearing on the market’s successes in 2020 and this is just one example of how the industry has misfired concerning trends in recent years. To truly inspire growth and attract buyers, the market needs to stop talking amongst itself in an echo chamber about non-existent trends and start focussing on what clients are really asking for.
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