Howard Prime on why Thailand is thriving again
Simpson Marine’s Howard Prime reveals how the yachting scene in Thailand is rebounding, with the company’s Pattaya office hosting the Asia premiere of the Fairline Squadron 68 and launching its Sailing Academy with a fleet of Beneteau First sports models.
Note: The original version of this article appeared as a Column by Howard Prime in YACHT STYLE Issue 66
Howard Prime, Simpson Marine’s Country Manager for Thailand
It was great to be back on the docks this summer as Simpson Marine exhibited at TYS Pattaya, meeting clients in a real marina environment and presenting many new models to our guests.
Although the first Asian boat show in over two years was set up in a last-minute fashion due to unpredictable pandemic-related restrictions, we enjoyed a positive and energetic atmosphere, with a fair number of visitors coming from far and wide across Thailand.
We were delighted to have such an impressive line-up, the biggest at the show by far, featuring no less than 12 vessels of all sizes including the Asia premiere of the ‘reinvented’ Fairline Squadron 68 and the Thailand premiere of the Aquila 28 Molokai.
Simpson Marine staff on Asia’s first Fairline Squadron 68
Hosting an Asian premiere in Pattaya gives a clear indication of the market activity. What’s more, six yachts on display were available for purchase, both new and brokerage. This helped to further engage customers, with our staff actively following up on enquiries. We also wrote contracts at the show for two units of the brand-new Lagoon 51 sailing catamaran. It’s going to be a busy year!
PATTAYA LEADS RECOVERY
The pandemic has had a huge impact on our business, like many others, starting from when the borders were closed and the country couldn’t welcome anyone in. This brought the charter business to a standstill for a long time and impacted the usually vibrant international market in Phuket.
Fairline Squadron 68 and Aquila 28 Molokai were among new models
However, the Pattaya market bloomed, as it has become a safe getaway for Bangkok residents. During this period, they’ve been able to discover the joys and freedom of a yachting lifestyle and the great benefits in exploring their home shores which are, as many know, world-class and internationally renowned among yachting enthusiasts.
With Pattaya establishing itself as a busy sales and charter centre, and Thailand opening to international travellers and businesses earlier this year, we’ve observed a healthy and steady interest in both yacht purchases and charters, which are continuing to grow as a post-pandemic trend.
Marine tourism is coming back and our Central Agency charter fleet – comprising 15 exclusively managed yachts including luxury catamarans, motor yachts and superyachts – and many other selections are now operating at full capacity. We’ve never had a such a full order book for forthcoming seasons as we do now.
All smiles at the Simpson Marine welcome desk
Tourists have been longing to come back to the ‘Land of Smiles’ and enjoy its famous hospitality, amazing culture and beautiful nature.
However, even though Thailand residents can now travel freely, there’s still a certain discomfort and anxiety about long-haul travel. Many still prefer short regional trips over longer international flights, so they keep enjoying the Gulf of Thailand on their yachts or go to the Phuket region to embark on longer trips around Phang Nga Bay and beyond.
In Pattaya, Simpson Marine has now expanded its team and has a brand-new sales office as well as a separate office for our new Simpson Marine Sailing Academy and Yacht Charter operation. Our Pattaya branch now offers a comprehensive range of services to our clients from Bangkok and the north of Thailand.
We created the Simpson Marine Sailing Academy to help establish and consolidate the local yachting market from a grassroots level. The Academy offers sailing courses of all levels, from beginner to advanced and even has a professional racing curriculum.
Simpson Marine’s Sailing Academy is up and running
We have a team of instructors and a fleet of eight Beneteau First boats, comprising five 14s, two 18s and a 27. Everything is set up to welcome students for enrolment. TYS Pattaya was the perfect time to officially launch the Academy and we’re happy to see many people apply for the short trials.
We’re also presenting the programmes to local schools and welcoming all potential students to attend our ‘try-out’ days. We want to show both Thais and expats what a fantastic lifestyle sailing offers and Pattaya has great cruising and racing areas on its doorstep.
EXCITING TIMES AHEAD
Adding to the varied range of yachts stationed here, the city will soon welcome another Asia premiere, for the Aquila 54 Yacht powercat. We’ve also just had a Sanlorenzo SL118 exploring the Gulf of Thailand and using Ocean Marina Yacht Club as its base.
Beneteau sailing yachts among the Simpson Marine display
Back in pre-Covid times, I would spend 80 per cent of my time in our Phuket office. This has now changed significantly, as I currently spend about 60 per cent of my time in Pattaya. In fact, we’re looking for more brokers to answer the growing demand.
With the expanding charter and Sailing Academy operations, we anticipate that our Pattaya business could match our Phuket business within the next 36 months. It’s a real market shift and proof of the growth of Thais as yacht owners and enthusiasts.
With our expanded teams, new offices, new services, yachts and toys available for delivery now, we’re confident that a busy start to 2022 – carrying over from a positive 2021 – will continue throughout the year and beyond. We look forward to seeing more new yachts and superyachts arriving in Thailand soon, bringing joy and ‘yachting freedom’ to their owners and their friends.
Simpson Marine’s Country Manager for Thailand since 2019, Prime is a captain (Master 200GT) and experienced sailor, racing professionally in IRC 5 on an X-99 and winning silverware at many regattas including at Cowes Week. Former roles included working for Jeanneau in the UK and Sunsail in Turkey. His career has alternated between yachting and the automotive industry, where he has worked across a range of brands including Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Ford, Renault, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-Benz.