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The Asia Boating Dialogue (ABD) 2020

by Suzy Rayment, Asia Yacht Press 22 Sep 08:13 PDT
Asia Boating Dialogue 2020 © ABD

Over 160 industry professionals joined together for the first of the two free online sessions that make up the Asia Boating Dialogue 2020. An up-date of the Asia Boating Forum (ABF) which was started five years ago, the new initiative is a cooperation between the Singapore Yacht Association and the Hong Kong Boating Industry Association, along with the support of ICOMIA. The two free round table webinars proved to be a welcome opportunity for members of the Asian boating industry to connect and network, especially given the dearth of boat shows this year.

The first session was held today (16:00 SGT / 08:00 UTC+8) via a zoom webinar and focused on the South and South East Asia regions. The six country representatives presented industry statistics, business trends, marine updates, boating regulations, and local destination insights.

Aashim Mongia from the Indian Marine Federation (IMF) kick started proceeding by talking about the progress that has been made at a government level in India to grow recreational boating and marina development. “It’s a slow process, but over the years we have engaged with the central Government and now we have support and approval for development of boating infrastructure and new regulations are coming into play”. A new marina in Mumbai and an increasing domestic interest in charter means that boating is on the map for one of the most populated country’s in the world.

Sri Lanka is also making strides when it comes to recreational boating. Garmini Herath, from the Boat Building Technology Improvement Institute (BTI), says that “although Sri Lanka is not a boating nation, there are small advances that show there is a growing demand for recreational boating in the country. A new Ministry has been formed to oversee boating development, and there is a fledgling ship building and charter industry.”

Robin Engel representing the Indonesian Marine Tourism Association, is upbeat about the benefits to the boating industry that the Indonesian government has initiated over the two terms that President Widodo has been in power. “There has been a swing away from big cruise ship tourism to smaller more sustainable vessels that connect this island nation and support local industry. With borders closed this has stimulated the local domestic boating market and as a result there will be opportunities here in the future.”

Singapore was next on the agenda, and Darren Oh who heads up the Singapore Boating Industry Association (SBIA) outlined the strengths of the economy, along with the current local boating regulations and infrastructure. “We are home to Asia’s biggest yacht show, and Singapore has a number of top-quality marinas; it’s just unfortunate that we don’t have much in the way of cruising grounds. So, with the Covid-related lockdowns, there has been an increase of local charter activity and brokerage sales but we still need to look to our neighbours (Indonesia and Malaysia) for easy access to good cruising destinations.”

William Quah, who stood in for Oh Kean Shen, was representing the Association of the Marine Industries of Malaysia (AMIM). Quah observed that Malaysia lacks good pleasure boating infrastructure, but the country does have an active sailing culture, regatta circuit and good shipyards for refit and repairs. “We are lagging our neighbours and need to catch up especially in areas such as charter.” The AMIM is currently talking to Malaysian Government about activating a 5-stage strategy to stimulate the growth of pleasure boating throughout the States of Malaysia.

The Thai Yachting Business Association (TYBA) representative Peter Jacops outlined the impact that the Covid lockdown has had on tourism and the boating community. There was hope that restrictions would be lifted soon but this doesn’t seem to be the case - and the charter and tourism industry is suffering. In the meantime, TYBA is looking to engage with the local community and develop a local boating culture while working with the Thai Government to refine boating and charter regulations for the future.

Apa Ongpin, representing the Federation of Philippines Marine Industries was the last speaker for the session. “The Philippines like many of its neighbours has had strict travel restrictions and this has slowed growth of the leisure boating industry.” But as Ongpin points out, “it’s a small industry with only 5-15 new boats a year entering the market, so the industry will continue to grow as the primary boating market is upper-middle class and wealthy private owners, with a secondary market of property and resort developers. The forecast is flat for 2020, but there will be post-Covid opportunities in the future.

Moderator Udo Kleinitz, Secretary General of ICOMIA, concluded the 2-hour session with questions and answers that had been fielded throughout the session via the chat platform. As usual there was not enough time to address some of the really interesting issues that were raised by the audience, but that just means there are more opportunities for future webinars.

Session Two will be held on Tuesday 29 September 2020 (16:00 SGT / 08:00 UTC+8) and feature the rest of East & Northeast Asian with speakers from China, Hong Kong & Macau, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Thanks to the Sponsors of the ABD - Gold Sponsors: Basco Boating, Asian Yachting Academy, and Fountaine Pajot, and Silver Sponsors: Groupe Beneteau Asia Pacific, Mercury, One15 Marina, Simpson Marine, and Volvo Penta.

For more information and to register for Session 2 go to www.asiaboating.org for Event Schedule and Programme, Speaker profiles, Sponsors and Supporting Organisations.

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