With open seas surrounding it and over ten marina clubs, Hong Kong is an attractive market for pleasure boats; Hong Kong market for pleasure boats is estimated at nearly US$96 million. Activities such as water-skiing, yachting, sailing, and major yachting events have propelled and popularized water activities and pleasure boating. In 2007, Hong Kong imported US$5.6 million worth of pleasure boats from the U.S. (or 5% of the import market). U.S. products are perceived to be more expensive than those manufactured in Asia. However, recent depreciation of the U.S. dollar combined with U.S. reputation for quality makes U.S. products competitive. Italy and Britain, whose share of the pleasure boat market in Hong Kong is 39% and 15.5%, respectively, dominate the market for imports.
Hong Kong citizens frequently take advantage of their close proximity to the ocean to participate in water sports such as sailing, fishing or by taking weekend “junk” trips for meals and sightseeing on nearby islands. Before 1997, the ratio of sail-boats to power-boats was 30:70, but now power boats boost 90% of the boat market. Additionally, before 1997, many large corporations owned boats/junks for business entertainment for company staff and clients, but after the financial crisis of 1997, many of the boats were sold. Nowadays, pleasure boat buyers are likely to be individuals who are more particular with what they are purchasing, and intensive marketing is required on the part of the distributors.
Super-yachts are one of the fastest-growing niches in the industry. According to a Hong Kong-based market manager for an international marine insurance broker, the number of super-yachts sold in Asia is increasing rapidly. “If someone sees his neighbor in the marina with a new yacht, he’s got to buy one. This trend is a massive explosion in the pleasure vessel industry.”
In 2007, pleasure vessel imports were valued at US$113.8 million, up 19.2 percent from the previous year (from US$96 million in 2006). It is uncertain if imports of pleasure vessels will continue to grow, as the market for pleasure boats in Hong Kong is cyclical. There have been consecutive increases in imports of pleasure vessels to Hong Kong in both 2006 and 2007.
Hong Kong is one of the premier areas for water activities as it is surrounded by many islets and beaches only accessible by sea. Sailing is becoming more popular in Hong Kong. The Leisure and Cultural Department of Hong Kong, as well as various marina clubs in Hong Kong, offers sailing packages and lessons to residents while major yachting events (Around the Island race, Hong Kong to Hainan race, China Coast regatta) promote the sport. Water skiing and deep-sea fishing are also becoming more popular with Hong Kong youth who are increasingly interested in the outdoors.
Hong Kong businessmen recently partially-financed a crew for the prestigious America’s Cup. With over 13 marina clubs and already 8,000 registered boats in Hong Kong, the yachting and pleasure boating industry is sure to expand.
By Swee-keng Cheong and & Elizabeth Cheng