Beauty on the inside
A sumptuous interior outdoes the need for speed among China's current wave of boat and yacht buyers, writes Richard Lord
When it comes to luxury yachts, the focus among buyers in China is firmly on the interior. 'The sitting room has to be luxurious,' says Gordon Hui, chairman in Asia of British luxury yachtmaker Sunseeker. 'Buyers are looking for luxury brands, but they're looking for a sophisticated kind of luxury in their interiors - like those of a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley.'
Yacht suppliers say that buyers in the traditional markets of Europe and North America tend to go for boats with long ranges and lots of deck space, with a view to making long trips to exotic locations with their families. However, prospective yacht owners in China are far more likely to take shorter trips - or often none at all - and be far more concerned with what's inside the boat than how far it's capable of going.
That means interiors that are as large as possible. While some also like them to be as glam as possible, mainland buyers usually prefer a more discreet brand of luxury - the emphasis definitely being on the word brand.
High-end boatmakers are increasingly entering into partnerships with premier fashion and lifestyle houses such as Fendi and Hermes. A leading boat company, Princess Yachts of England, has been owned by France's LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods group, since 2008. And status is what buyers in China want.
Boats in China are mostly used for day trips rather than longer voyages, and the emphasis is more on entertaining guests than on relaxing with the family, so buyers' priorities tend to focus on comfort and entertainment. That means powerful air conditioning, effective stabilisers, sizeable round dining tables suitable for Chinese-style dining, and top-of-the-range audio-visual facilities.
Boatmakers estimate that between 60 and 70 per cent of buyers in China are planning to use their boats for corporate entertaining - usually boats that are more than 80 feet (24 metres), with the rest buying mostly smaller vessels for family use.
What very few of either group seem to want is to go very far - there are even rumoured requests for superyachts without engines. 'Long-distance cruising? I'm not sure clients are so into that,' says Hui. 'Speed is not that important to them. A few clients prefer high-speed boats such as Predators because they like driving them, but it's not a priority.'