Many Chinese regard yachting as a sport for the rich, but Australian entrepreneur Les Glover wants to make it a recreation everyone can enjoy - with the help of an amazing new project. 'Boating is a pastime everyone can enjoy at their own level and budget in Australia,' says Glover, chairman of Success Group International.
Site of proposed project
And that is exactly what he is looking forward to realizing in China. The Australian company, which has operated in China since 2009, provides consulting services to the yacht industry.
Sino Australia Royal Yacht City project in Tianjin Binhai New Area - artist's impression
In 2009, with the help of Tianjin Marine Economic Area Administrative Commission, the company started the Sino Australia Royal Yacht City project.
The project is located in the Central Fishing Port of Tianjin Binhai New Area, about 170 kilometers southeast of Beijing, and covers 2.2 square kilometers. It will cost 799 million euros ($1.1 billion) and will open in 2018. It is divided into four stages, comprising a yacht club, about 1,000 yacht berths, high-end hotels and supporting facilities.
'For sure, the high-end luxury market is very attractive. But for recreational yachting in China to be truly successful, it should focus upon all levels, including the average income people,' says Glover, who has been in the yachting business for more than 20 years.
Wu Weizhen, executive general manager of Sino Australia Success Enterprise Co, says that once Royal Yacht City is completed it will work with other yacht clubs in the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta providing services such as mooring and supplies.
Club members, provided they have submitted applications in advance, will be able to get permits for long-haul sailing in these areas, and entertainment, sightseeing and leisure will be offered.
For those on more modest budgets, yachts will be offered for use on a time-share basis. Glover says the price is yet to be fixed, but in Australia renting a five-seat vessel for four hours costs 1,250 yuan ($196, 142 euros) for each person.
In the initial stage of the project 100 seaside villas and 150 berths are being built. The Sino Australia Royal Yacht Club, covering 10,000 square meters, will be unveiled to the public next year.
The club includes entertainment facilities, yachting exhibitions, and space for training courses and for rent.
'We want to introduce genuine yacht culture and lifestyle from Western countries, and make it possible for people to step out of their houses onto their yachts,' says Fang Jingying, marketing director of Sino Australia Success Enterprise.
Glover started sailing when he was 12. 'I was introduced to sailing by my father, who was a keen yachtsman, and I sailed with my younger brother in a yacht about three meters long.' He progressed to larger yachts and ocean racing.
In setting up Royal Yacht City, Glover is on a mission to spread yachting culture. Chinese need to become acquainted with yachting as both a sport and as recreatio.
Sino Australia Royal Yacht City will bring in Australian yachting experts to educate people about yachting as a recreation. It will also offer 'the unique yachting lifestyle for holidays'.
Australia may trail China in cultural richness, Glover says, but it has a more profound history of sailing.
While boating in China is by and large restricted to the rich, he believes the market holds wider opportunities. 'The key thing (in) boating is to appreciate it as a pastime based on your own affordability and preferences. Once you are on the ocean, the experience is for all people to enjoy. 'And this will also occur in China as people become more familiar with the use of a boat and as more have leisure time.'
Another aim is to promote the good regulation of yachting. Boat licenses, registration and insurance are in their infancy in China, Glover says. He believes the establishment of Royal Yacht City will speed up their development.
The recreational boating industry in China is set to make big advances.