So, now that the smoke from the fireworks has blown away, the last echo from the speeches has died, and all the bikini-clad lovelies have left the stage – how did the first Macau Yacht Show make out?
Since we went to the press conference in August that ‘announced’ this event, it has gone through a number of names. There was the Macau International Import and Export Yacht Fair, the China (Macau) International Automobile and Yacht Exposition, and various others. (The car reference comes from the fact that one of the organising parties, Fuzhou Auto China Yachts Management, was running a car show at the same time). Let's keep it simple and call it the Macau Yacht Show.
And what did the exhibiting companies and brokers think? In fact, reactions were unanimously positive. Starship Yachts (Maiora), Sunseeker Asia, Simpson Marine (Beneteau, Azimut), China Pacific Marine (Jeanneau) and Princess all made favourable comments, and believed that they had acquired good contacts during the show. One theory runs that a combination of the state-run Nam Kwong Group and the Fuzhou Auto China Yacht Management Co Ltd was bound to bring some good customers to the table. Maybe it was right. We did gather that the organisers expected boats to actually get sold and driven away during the event - and we know that is not usually the case at boat shows. However, Mr Li Zhizhong, Chairperson of the Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, categorically stated that three boats had indeed been sold.
But before we get too carried away with enthusiasm for this latest demonstration of the oft-reported and near-sonic boom in the leisure boating industry in Asia generally – and southern China in particular – let’s remember that all the Hong Kong marinas are full (especially at the bigger boat end of the scale), and that Macau has just one small, full and rather dilapidated marina. There are plans for more, we have been assured, and soon. But in the meantime, where are you going to park your new purchase? If you went along to the Macau Yacht Show last week with a briefcase full of large denomination notes and signed the papers on a 92’ motor yacht, and if The Regulations allowed you to drive it away with a different crew than that it arrived with, you’d still have nowhere to moor it – unless maybe you headed north to Nansha Marina some 30-odd miles up the Pearl River towards Guangzhou, and were prepared to fork out another 47% import duty over and above the purchase price in order to get the boat into China.
On the face of it, the idea of a Macau Yacht Show is an excellent idea: put some very expensive toys in a shop window that is regularly passed by people with a lot of cash in their pockets. That doesn’t only mean the winners walking out of one of Macau’s many casinos – it includes the ever-expanding number of millionaires being created by the manufacturing industry of the Pearl River Delta region. Who are right next door. The Fisherman’s Wharf area of Macau is visible, accessible, and (it has to be said) underutilised, so why not put a boat show there? Why not, indeed.
But there are two problems here – one immediate and practical, and the other in the very near future. First, the piers at Fisherman’s Wharf are just that – piers. No pontoons to move up and down with the tide, and allow eager boat viewers to access the boats. An attempt was made to install a temporary pontoon system, but unfortunately it was so temporary that parts of it lasted less than 24 hrs. It’s the sort of thing than can be written down as ‘teething problems’, especially where a very inexperienced organising committee is concerned, but it is something that needs to be fixed – and fixed properly – in order to avoid disgruntling (is that a real word?) both exhibitors and visitors next time round. The very considerable wash rolling in from the adjacent ferry terminal doesn’t help, although it gave one of the brokers from Simpson Marine a very good opportunity to show off the stabiliser system installed in an Azimut 88!
Second, Fisherman’s Wharf has precisely 12 piers. Which means no more than 24 boats (and then a few more alongside some sort of temporary (there’s that word again!) berthing arrangements tacked on at the end. Nearly all the berths were occupied over the last four days, so if the Show grows, it is going to need a new home. Very soon. If you are a manufacturer, a dealer or a broker interested in Macau Yacht Show 2012, we suggest you book your in-water space right now.
Shoreside, the Show was definitely lack-lustre. The main boulevard of Fisherman’s Wharf was given over to booths and stands, but there just weren’t enough of them to fill the available space. Maybe inserting a few cars between them would have been a good idea!
And another thing: the local press announced that the Show was ‘free entry’ whereas in fact a ticket that allowed visitors to walk along the quayside and see the boats at close quarters cost around HK$300. Some visitors thought this entitled them to a ride on a superyacht (and were disappointed) and others thought that it gave them entry to a gargantuan party thrown by David Chow, CEO of Legend Development and owner of Fisherman’s Wharf. They, too, were disappointed.
We will observe with interest as Macau Yacht Show 2012 comes around. All the teething troubles are fixable, and organisers have expressed a willingness to listen to suggestions and feedback. We have, however, heard this sort of thing before. If the same problems exist in a year’s time both the exhibitors and the visitors will lose interest very quickly.