by Jeni Bone
Taiwan yacht builders and allied marine industry, in association with the organisers of the 2014 Taiwan International Boat Show team hosted media and VIPs at Glory Pier in Kaohsiung to whet their appetite for what’s to come, with nine yachts on display and a smattering of tents with local manufacturers spruiking their credentials.
John Lu, Horizon
The event, the 2012 Kaohsiung Yacht Boutique, introduced by founder and CEO of Horizon Yacht, John Lu, was 'a taste of the yachting lifestyle', which organises believe is crucial to underpinning the success of the Taiwan International Yacht Show launching in April 2014, as well as propelling the local industry in its ambitions in global markets.
'We are just starting out,' admits Lu, whose company is celebrating 25 years in the industry. 'This is our first effort at creating the yachting culture in Taiwan. We are realistic that in the first three years, it’s going to be hard to attract exhibitors and visitors to Kaohsiung, but it’s never too late to start.'
On display at the mini-boat show were vessels from Kaohsiung-based manufacturers, including Horizon, Tayana, Kha Shing, President and Jade Yachts, exhibits from stainless steel experts, Aritex and representatives of the Southern Stars Project, as well as a selection of prestige vehicles for effect. The event was open to the public the next day, aiming to capture their imagination and inspire pride in their yachting brands by letting them view and experience first-hand the might of the local industry.
Jade Yachts Taiwan
Also present was the current president of IFBSO, Jurij Korenc, who is also founder of Internautica, now in its 16th year and based in Portoroz Marina, Slovenia.
'Our aim is to share our resources and knowledge, to help people set up boat shows with the right guidelines,' he said at the event. 'It has been hard for all the marine industry over the past few years. In some cases, boat show exhibitors are down 50%. IFBSO’s role is to help boat show organisers attract quality exhibitors and to be a useful platform for them.'
Taiwan Yacht Boutique
Guests were also treated to a cultural performance from traditional Taiwanese drummers and dancers, before toasting the preparation of the 2014 Taiwan International Boat Show.
The media in attendance, while impressed with the superyacht and manufacturing credentials of the region, also observed the lack of local facilities, the red-tape involved in recreational boating, and a nascent culture of recreational activity and water-based pursuits.
'People here don’t like the sun,' said Johnny Chueh, CEO at Ocean Alexander,referring to the mania of women and men to cover up in the heat of summer. 'Boating, which involves enjoying a day out on the water, is not going to catch on. Yachting, which is posing on your big boat, certainly has a future. Not here in Taiwan which has an extremely small population of 18 million, but more likely in China. There you can pose in front of one billion people.'
Despite the rising affluence in China and a growing appetite for accoutrements like yachts, there are still many hurdles to surmount, including a lack of marinas and rigid parameters for enjoying a day out on the water.
One industry proponent described the plight of the Taiwanese yacht owner who recently spent an hour on the radio with the coast guard explaining why he wanted permission to leave the harbour. 'They couldn’t understand why he wanted to go to sea, with no freight or cargo onboard, just to spend time out at sea. Changing these cultural barriers is where the challenge lies.'