As far as Bryan Jones, President Fairline Boats Asia, is concerned, he’s in the right place at the right time, representing the right brand to ride the wave of affluence rising in China and a surge in boating the region.
On his recent visit to Australia for the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, Jones said the marque’s home market of Europe is 'steady, cyclical', while North America is 'very tough'.
'They are very reactive to hikes in fuel prices, elections, winter, negative news in the press. But Brazil is strong and the Asian market, especially China, is thriving.'
As Jones explains, 'it’s a huge market, and we will see it boom in our lifetime, but it will take time. Like India. We have just had our first retail sale there and as infrastructure develops and the industry gets behind yachting, it will happen.'
But China is the real crucible of potential growth and where a lot of Fairline’s Asian emphasis will be.
'There are 970,000 millionaires, 40,000 ten-millionaires and 1,400 billionaires. Those figures are incredible. There are many, many opportunities in China, for example in marinas. They are building marinas by the dozen, and they are 70% empty, but there are opportunities for service operations, facilities, management, Captains and of course, to grow the boating mentality.'
For Fairline, catering to the China market has begun to involve grand-scale evolution in manufacturing to accommodate the levels of customisation this new breed of yacht owner demands.
With such a new, powerful market, brands have to be nimble to adapt to cultural quirks and particular preferences.
'We recently sold a Squadron 78 which the new owner wanted as a ‘floating palace’, to conduct business and entertain her contacts and VIPs. She wanted a boardroom above decks, no galley, which was moved in to one of the smaller bedrooms downstairs, and the master suite was converted in to a bar, mah-jong and karaoke room!'
Australia on the other hand, is considered a mature market.
'We have been in the market there for decades, very capably led by Mark Chapman at CRS Yachts. We are reinforcing the importance of this market by having a strong presence at Sanctuary Cove and then in Sydney in July with four boats.'
85% of the Fairline boats are exported. Australia, he continues, 'is a vital market'. 'We sell around 20 boats in to Australia each year, which is a lot.'
Fairline, imported from the UK, is enjoying the strong Aussie dollar and has reported a 600% increase in sales over the past two years in the Asia-Pacific region.
The brand is a regular exhibitor at the key international shows, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Korea, Sydney, Cannes and PSP Southampton, and then at selected boat shows in local markets via its dealer network - 63 throughout the world.
Manufactured in Oundle, the range of boats includes Squadron and Targa lines, and are all positioned to attract 'the confident connoisseur', says Jones.
'They are traditional and embody all the classic styling and superb finish of a British prestige motor yacht, but at the same time, particularly in the Targa 58, there have been real step-changes to embody modern and contemporary characteristics.'
Every boat has an individual quality certification procedure, which Jones says is 'a rigorous process that can involve over 2,000 separate checks'.
'Our production people from designers to specialist craftspeople, actually go out and live on the boats for a couple of nights, like a customer would. They test the boats in all kinds of conditions, including the North Sea in September, which is very rough and comparable to any offshore conditions in the world.'
The Fairline Targa 58 Gran Turismo won 'Motor Boat of the Year' Award for 2011 in the 'Sportsccruiser Above 45ft' category - the third year in a row that it has won a Motor Boat of the Year Award.
'We are all about innovation and quality. Fairline was the first British boat manufacturer ever to receive a BS5750/ISO9001 quality accreditation,' adds Jones.
For his part, Jones has been with Fairline for 10 years, and in the two and a half years he’s been in Asia, he has seen the number of dealers double, from six to 12.
'We have a presence in the Philippines, Thailand, where there is a potential new marina, Singapore and of course, more and more in China.'
Jones recently attended the second annual Hainan RendezVous in Sanya – known as the 'Riviera' of China, which he observes is growing every year. 'They are moving it to a new marina the demand is so high. For anybody in the luxury sector, this is the show to attend. There were corporate and chartered jets flying in with business people and potential clients.'
More at www.fairline.com