Yachts get classier as preferences change
BOATS sought by today's entrepreneurs are larger than those in demand a few years ago and the interiors of these luxury vessels are now fitted with more sophisticated amenities.
While most luxury boats owned by company and individuals are used for recreation and entertainment, more and more are being used as alternative accommodation.
This was a noticeable trend in the market, according to specialists in the trade.
Preferences of individual buyers have changed considerably over the past few years.
Clive Smith, general manager of Seanergy said: ''Previously, 55-foot yachts would have been considered large but now 75-foot to more than 100-foot yachts are the order of the day, with customers demanding lavish and high-quality interiors.
''Such yachts have been bought by some of the top business people in Hong Kong not only for personal relaxation but also for corporate entertaining.'' Luxury Italian yachts Technomarine, Azimut and Riva are extremely popular. Riva 100-foot yachts sell for between $23.4 million and $27.3 million.
Spiralling rentals in Hong Kong have also encouraged many people who are less well off to buy yachts for accommodation.
''It's a very simple concept,'' Mr Smith said.
''Purchase the yacht by borrowing 70 per cent of the price and the monthly repayment to service the loan replaces your monthly rent.'' Mike Simpson, director of Simpson Marine, said escaping the frantic pace of life in Hong Kong was another reason boating was catching on.
''Boating is increasing in popularity here. The main reason is life is getting more hectic,'' Mr Simpson said.
The boating boom is not confined to Hong Kong. Growing prosperity across the region is resulting in increased sales in other countries.
''It is a sign of increasing affluence,'' Mr Simpson said.
''People are looking for lifestyle changes; a boat is a symbol of their progression up the ladder.'' Don Chow Chi-cheung, director of China Pacific Marine, said that in Hong Kong boats were less expensive, tax-wise, than cars.
''Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in yachts and powerboats . . . and unlike an expensive car, the only tax to be paid is an import declaration tax of less than 25 per cent,'' Mr Chow said.
Boating interest is growing in China, following on from the widespread interest in luxury cars.
''Growth on the mainland is being thwarted by the lack of marinas, as it was in Japan before the recession,'' Mr Simpson said.
''It was the same in Singapore until Raffles Marina opened up about a year ago, and now business is picking up. The marina is 60 to 70 per cent full already.'' But Mr Chow said he expected the China market to take off within the next five years.
Several marinas are either being planned or under construction: one is being built in Shanghai and will be finished within three years.
The Thai market, which has fluctuated with the political situation, is now also looking good.
''There are a lot of rich people there and their boating season is year-round,'' Mr Chow said.