Taiwan Boat Show Attracts International Attention
The second biannual exhibition highlights world-class boatbuilding and one country’s struggle to create a domestic yachting market.
(Kaohsiung, Taiwan) The second biannual Taiwan International Boat Show hosted 166 vendors, yet the goal for the show varied from booth to booth. While some vendors aimed to sell boats or equipment to prospective clients from around Asia others aimed to tackle the difficult task of growing the sport of boating in Taiwan whose government prohibited recreation on the water not very long ago. With 63 yachts from 10 countries, the show was held in an 290,000 square foot indoor/outdoor exhibition center this past week and organized by the Bureau of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Kaohsiung City Government.
Standing in the shadow of an Ocean Alexander 100—built in a yard just 10 minutes away—Dealer Principal for Ocean Alexander Australia and New Zealand, Todd Holzapfel, explained that the Kaohsiung venue offers his prospective clients the chance to view new models and see their boatyard in a single trip.
“From my perspective, we’re welcoming Australian and New Zealand clients and showing them the scale of our operation,” says Holzapfel. “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.”
CEO of Taiwanese boat builder Novatec Yachts, Eddie Tao, admits that one of his primary goals—besides selling yachts—is to inform the public and show goers about the future of boating in Taiwan.
“Taiwan has a beautiful reputation for building quality yachts,” Tao says. “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 explains that 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 says.
Until just a few years ago, strict government restrictions prevented recreational access to the water for generations of Taiwanese. And until January 2015, the country invoked a stiff 10-percent luxury tax on the limited number of people who did purchase boats. “We need to teach everyone that boating is free and legal,” Tao says. He firmly believes his country is on the cusp of a boating boom.
It’s not just longtime Taiwan builders who see the yachting potential in this island nation. “Taiwan has one of the highest populations of U.S. millionaires,” says Sean Stratton, Princess Yachts Manager of the Asia Pacific Region. “The marine industry has a high level of support from the government,” he says. “Now the key is creating a yachting lifestyle which takes a lot of hard work and expense in the beginning.”
Stratton and Princess Yachts are investing both, hoping that the risk of entering Taiwan’s boating industry at the ground level will earn them the reward of boat sales once demand rises. The company is already in the process of creating a 40- to 50-slip marina in southern Taiwan near a local auto-racing track. They hope to use the marina to house inventory and host events that will introduce businessmen to boating.
Creating a culture of boating among the Taiwanese people will not be an easy undertaking. It’ll require relentless planning, hard work, and perseverance against great adversity; but take one look around the young Taiwan show at the newest yachts being producing there and you’ll realize, this is a country that has never shied away from a challenge.