KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — The second biannual Taiwan International Boat Show hosted 166 vendors, but the goal for the show varied from booth to booth.
Some vendors were trying to sell boats or equipment to prospective clients from Asia. Others aimed to tackle the difficult task of growing boating in Taiwan, whose government prohibited recreation on the water not very long ago.
Exhibiting 63 yachts from 10 countries, the March 10-13 show was held in a 290,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor exhibition center and organized by the country’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Kaohsiung city government.
Standing in the shadow of an Ocean Alexander 100 — built in a yard just 10 minutes away — Todd Holzapfel, dealer principal for Ocean Alexander Australia and New Zealand, explained that the Kaohsiung venue offers his prospective clients the chance to see new models and the builder’s boatyard in a single trip.
“From my perspective, we’re welcoming Australian and New Zealand clients and showing them the scale of our operation,” Holzapfel said. “We’re well known in the U.S., but we’re still getting the word out about our brand in this part of the world. It’s an educational opportunity.”
Eddie Tao, chief executive of Taiwanese boatbuilder Novatec Yachts, said one of his primary goals — beyond selling yachts — is to talk to the public and showgoers about the future of boating in Taiwan.
“Taiwan has a beautiful reputation for building quality yachts,” Tao said. “Building great yachts is step one in creating a yachting lifestyle. Step two is selling yachts locally, which is something this show will help us with in time.”
Tao said the third and admittedly most difficult step is creating new marinas in Taiwan to accommodate yachts.
“We need the government to help us create more marinas to open boating to the public,” he said.
Until just a few years ago, strict government policies had blocked recreational access to the water for generations of Taiwanese. Until January 2015 the country invoked a stiff 10 percent luxury tax on the limited number of people who purchased boats.
“We need to teach everyone that boating is free and legal,” said Tao, who firmly believes his country is on the cusp of a boating boom.
It’s not just longtime Taiwan builders that see the yachting potential in this island nation.
“Taiwan has one of the highest populations of U.S. millionaires,” said Sean Stratton, Princess Yachts general manager for the Asia-Pacific region. “The marine industry has a high level of support from the government. Now the key is creating a yachting lifestyle, which takes a lot of hard work and expense in the beginning.”
Princess Yachts hopes that taking the risk of entering Taiwan’s boating industry at the ground level will earn it the reward of boat sales once demand rises.
The company is creating a 40- to 50-slip marina in southern Taiwan near a local auto-racing track. It hopes to use the marina to house inventory and host events that will introduce businessmen to boating.