Giovanna Vitelli, vice-president of Azimut Benetti Group and the daughter of Azimut founder Paolo Vitelli, explains how the luxury boatbuilder has navigated the pandemic. What makes Benetti yachts different? Since 1873, the shipyard has specialised in the construction of megayachts. Nowadays Benetti creates yachts tailor-made according to their owner’s desires. Each of these is the result of years of yacht-building experience as well as Benetti’s heritage. We have developed a network of partnerships with renowned design firms and brands, to create extraordinary products that combine refined elegance and uncompromising quality, together with state-of-the-art technologies. We are investing more and more in R&D – over US$110 million in a three-year period – as we see a rise in the demand for greener yachts and a general increase in awareness towards environmental issues. By doing its part in ongoing research in the environmentally friendly field, Benetti has developed several systems that have been already installed on our yachts over the years and have been heavily tested. How did London lockdowns spark super-prime home sales? How has your business strategy changed since the start of the pandemic? Even though the emergency measures implemented since last year were – and still are – quite strict, we had the chance to continue production in Livorno and Viareggio shipyards, always ensuring the highest quality standards. We faced the pandemic with reliance and responsibility and we think that the yachting industry trend has been marked by this contingency. Our international reliability has allowed us to take part in the general effort for economic recovery, going ahead with export. We decided also to hold the Yachtmaster 2021, a yearly event organised by Benetti, in a “phygital” edition. Captains, crews and all yacht industry professionals involved in the life cycle of a superyacht had the chance to follow a rich programme of meetings, workshops and analysis. We also held a virtual trade show, with customers, brokers and partners connected all over the world. Shifting to virtual online events allowed us to maintain a strong connection with our owners. Thankfully this year it was possible to go back to meeting in person: the boat show season was a huge success that reflected an incredible growth in sales. How is Asia performing for Benetti? Since Benetti started focusing on the Asia-Pacific market in recent years, there have been rewards that led to this region accounting for 25 per cent of total production and revenues of more than US$288 million; 75 per cent of sales have been, in fact, to Greater China. In addition, sales to Australian and New Zealand buyers in the last three years have been at record levels, making the market an evolving and promising one. 4 lavish homes of India’s vaccine billionaires, the Poonawallas How have buyers’ mindsets changed? Chinese consumers are often more business-oriented. However, since the pandemic, more and more Chinese consumers are into multifunctional spaces, which include both business and leisure space, such as places for mahjong and outdoor activities. And Chinese consumers generally prefer bigger yachts – every year the yachts are getting bigger and bigger. Do you see different patterns in Gen Z and millennial buyers from previous generations? Indeed, certainly we are seeing many younger buyers in China and Hong Kong who look for more from our yachts. The popularity of our Oasis series has been a clear indicator of this market shift where the focus is on fun and entertainment and spending more time on board. Tell us more about Benetti’s bespoke services Benetti Yachts provides mega-yachts from 45 metres to over 100 metres in length, made to measure for the most demanding owners. Benetti’s unparalleled expertise and experience in yacht styling and project planning resulted in the creation of two product families: Mega and Giga. Other than those two mega-yacht families, the Oasis 40M and Motopanfilo 37M are the two most popular yachts in APAC. Oasis 40M has been Benetti Asia’s bestselling yacht for the last two years, with six units in APAC and 15 sold globally. Besides Benetti naval architects, the world’s best-known designers have contributed to individual Benetti Custom yachts, working both on the exterior lines and the interior design. No company is safe from Covid-19: 6 luxury brands filing for bankruptcy What are the biggest challenges at the moment? Production is the most challenging part because we do not have enough manpower to meet clients’ deadlines. During the pandemic, we received huge demand from buyers, because people are craving safer and more open, yet intimate space. And clients are now demanding a quick purchase, with early delivery absolutely key to capture the market – like receiving an inquiry in June and requesting a boat to be ready in July. Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .