Expert thinks smaller yachts will drive growth in China

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China’s private yacht market will not grow as rapidly as the market for luxury cars or handbags and will be driven by sales of smaller yachts.

That’s according to Chancy Hua, who is with the National Yacht Experts Committee in China and editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based Modern Ships magazine.

Hua told the South China Morning Post that billionaires in China in industries other than property development and information technology aren’t interested in owning yachts.

"China's private yacht market will never grow in an explosive way, like it has for luxury cars or handbags. Demand for top-end yachts is still very limited. It's not at all a must-have for every Chinese billionaire," Hua said.

"Even those boat buyers prefer a boat made in Italy. Prices are not that important for them, although locally made boats' prices are only half [to] one third of that of imported ones," Hua added.

In the last year and a half, Chinese companies bought Sanlorenzo, Sunseeker and Ferretti. All three plan to produce yachts locally that cater to a Chinese clientele.

According to a report by the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association, there were 440 yacht builders on the mainland in April this year. They mainly produce small and medium-sized yachts priced from $150,000 to $600,000 that are primarily for tourist and commercial use.

Sunbird Yacht Co. is one of few home-grown luxury private yacht builders in China. Half of its boats are sold for private use.

"To be honest, those who really love sailing would pick foreign brands instead of us. Customers who bought our boats are mainly for showing off and they seldom use it," Sunbird spokeswoman Laura Jia told the publication.

Industry experts and local yacht builders are more optimistic about the market for small and medium-size yachts because aquatic sports are becoming more popular among the middle class.

"A locally made … yacht is usually priced below 1 million yuan. For some well-off customers, this is pretty much like buying a limousine, which is totally affordable," Hua said. "Now we are seeing faster growth of smaller yachts in China, compared to bigger ones. We believe smaller yachts are going to be the real driver for China's private yacht market."

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