by Suzy Rayment
According to the Kaohsiung City Government, the Taiwan International Boat Show attracted over 70,000 visitors and sold 32 yachts worth NT$1 billion (US$33.17 million). Some 26,000 visitors, including 2,500 buyers from China, the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, attended the Kaohsiung Exhibition Centre on the show's final day alone, said Lai Jui-lung, head of the Kaohsiung Marine Bureau. Head counts such are notoriously unreliable, but the exhibition halls at TIBS were certainly packed to the doors, the queues just to stand on a boat for a few moments were never ending, and the viewing gallery windows overlooking the halls were crowded mullion to mullion. Say what you will, there were A Lot of People.
Taiwan International Boat Show 2014 - Glamour girls are mandatory at Chinese boat shows
Lai expected the show to boost to businesses in the boating supply chain, including boat manufacturers, yacht hardware makers, and boat maintenance providers, saying that a US$1 investment in the yacht industry could create US$10 worth of business opportunities. He said that yachts made in Taiwan are not just for export but now also available for domestic consumption as local residents can now sail in Taiwan waters – something not permitted until very recently. Judging by the queues, the Taiwanese are spoiling to get on a boat, and the domestic market is all set for happy days. The Kaohsiung government is now working toward the creation of an industrial park dedicated to yacht manufacturing and the development of the marine recreation industry in the southern city, Lai said.
The show definitely marked a significant moment for Taiwan's six-decade long marine industry history. Taiwan has always been known as a manufacturing centre and for producing OEM yachts and yacht fittings. But the industry seems to have come of age and is now finding that the local market will probably be their next major market outside the USA, if the number of visitors to the show is anything to go by.
Over 24,000 visitors showed up on the first two days, and the weekend saw double that number. In fact, by midday on Sunday, the Horizon Yacht stand was apologising to visitors that they had to close the viewing registration as all the available allocations had been taken. Even the queues in HK Disneyland are not as long as this!
Visitors waited patiently for hours to get on ‘any old yacht’. For most of us it is hard to understand the incentive for such behaviour but as one local broker explained, 'this country has been building boats and parts of boats for the last 60 year, but people have never had the chance to go out and have fun on boats, unlike their western counterparts. Recreational boating opportunities have been limited by government regulation, but now that boating is sanctioned by the government, people are curious and they want to experience what a luxury sailing or motorboat is like, first-hand.'
With the show venue so near to the heart of Taiwan's cluster of yacht and marine-related manufacturers, all the major players were there. John Lu, President of the Taiwan Yacht Industry Association (TYIA) and CEO of Horizon, has been working tirelessly with the Taiwan Government to help bring about a change. The launch of the first-ever yacht show in Kaohsiung is just one of the outcomes. ' The Taiwan Government has put a great deal of effort into integrating resources for the yachting industry, including the easing of strict regulations, investing in dockage facilities and encouraging water-based leisure activities,' says Lu. ' There are many large scale construction plans and unique yachting activities under consideration, and I finally see the market heading in the right direction.'
A number of shipyards are located in Kaohsiung and buyers can personally checkout the facilities, most of which can be reached within a 30-minute drive from the city centre. Horizon Yachts, Jade Yachts, Kha Shing Enterprise Co Ltd, Johnson Yachts Co, Grand Harbour Yachts Inc, Asia Harbor Yacht Builder, Global Yacht Builders, Chinli Technology Shipping Co. Ltd, New Ocean Yachts Co., Sing Sheng Fa Boat Building and Ta Yang Yacht Building Co are all based in Kaohsiung and have all been building high quality boats for the international market for years. The first Taiwan International Boat Show has been the perfect place for them to showcase their yachts.
The Taiwanese have enjoyed a steady rise in wealth and affluence, and the number of households with a net worth of more than UD$100,000 is reported to be four times greater than the world average. According to the TYIA Director Tim Juan, President of the Ta Shing Yacht Building in Tainan, Taiwan, 'One of the biggest barriers to growth is a 10% luxury tax on yachts of more than NT $3m (US$100,000). The tax has been in place since June 2011, and has only collected NT $7.3m since it was enforced. Why is it that Taiwan yacht-builders, on one hand are building some of the world’s finest yachts but are not able to embrace the yachting culture for themselves?'
Juan believes that Taiwan’s first-ever boat show has struck a cord with the residents of Taiwan.' Not only is it an occasion for viewing beautiful yachts, it is the start of a new chapter in Taiwan’s boating development.' It was hard not to be impressed by Taiwan’s first boat show. The next iteration is planned for 2016, but the general feeling by the end of the show was 'with this much enthusiasm for boating, why wait. Let’s do it again next year!