Della Pearce on Singapore’s ups and downs
It has been a stop-start couple of years for yachting in Singapore, with encouraging sales and initiatives offset by frequently changing restrictions on group gatherings that have frustrated cruising and charter activity.
Della Pearce is now Sales Director at Hong Seh Marine; Photo: Hong Seh Marine
It’s about two years since Covid spread around the world to become a global pandemic. In Singapore, regulations have frequently been updated from the initial ‘circuit breaker’ in April and May 2020, when most workplaces closed, and schools moved to home-based learning. Once the circuit breaker was lifted, the restrictions on the number of people you could meet see-sawed from groups of five to eight or down to two – and even back to home confinement again for a month.
In 2021, watching around the world as more countries were opening to visitors, big events restarted and stadiums were full, you couldn’t help but feel a little anxious and frustrated being cooped up in a small country with restrictions changing regularly.
Even in late November, dine-in and social gatherings were limited to two people. At time of writing, it was back up to five, irrespective of whether group members were from the same household or not. All this and almost no international travel from April 2020 to June 2021. Even since then, quarantine and the increased complication of travel have limited overseas trips.
With sweeping changes to people’s day-to-day lifestyle since early 2020, many started to feel frustrated, unable to travel and having to look more closely at spending all holiday or leisure time in Singapore. With the tourism economy heavily hit by the pandemic, there has been a growing focus on ‘domestic tourism’.
Yachts at Lazarus Island; Photo: Next Tide Consultancy
Interestingly, it has been a lot easier for yacht dealers to reach new boat customers who had previously been busy travelling or had some other prior engagement. During the lockdowns, having no time was no longer an excuse!
Overall, it helped with connecting to boat owners and new leads, sharing new digital assets from shipyards, and allowing more time to go through the buying process.
Dealerships who had stock boats and support from yards were definitely better off. We had stock boats that opened the conversation with many potential leads. These customers would have the opportunity to get a real feel for new boat qualities, resulting in either buying the stock boat or ordering a customised new boat from the yard.
That was typically the goal with stock boats in the past, although most dealerships and shipyards would align their stock boats to arrive in time for a boat show. These were good occasions for showing off a new model, but sometimes the stock boats wouldn’t move if the market had changed.
Hong Seh Marine delivered two Ferretti Yachts 780s in late 2021; Photo: Hong Seh Marine
Now, the dealers who buy stock boats are more actively seeking buyers any time of the year, which has resulted in more new boats hitting the water in Singapore.
Singapore has seen a significant increase in brokerage boats exchanged in the past year. At the beginning of the pandemic, it seemed everyone wanted to offload boats for any price as there was some fear in the global financial markets, coupled with the uncertainty of the pandemic and how that would affect people’s livelihoods.
The next wave was people relocating or moving away from Singapore. Both situations brought a healthy amount of relatively affordable boats into the market. The main beneficiaries of this were families or couples that saw boat ownership as an escape from the usual activities in Singapore.
Within six to 12 months, boats were being sold as quickly as they were being listed. Anyone looking to buy a boat would almost have to put a deposit ‘there and then’ to hold off another potential buyer.
Hong Seh Marine’s office in ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove
Another significant factor in the brokerage market has been the uptake of Singapore’s local boat driving course (PPCDL), which has encouraged and enabled new boaters to the market.
CHARTER CHOPS AND CHANGES
The emphasis on domestic tourism has spilled over to the yacht charter and boat rental market. Despite an unprecedented situation for charter operators, the market has grown substantially since the beginning of the pandemic.
Despite not being able to have a full number of guests on board, charter operators took the opportunity to provide different experiences aligned with Singapore culture such as ‘Staycation at Sea’, ‘Catch and Cook Fishing’ and ‘Heritage and Culture Ride’, to name a few.
However, restrictions on the number of guests allowed on board were sometimes revised overnight, meaning charter guests had very little option but to reschedule their charter or go ahead with a smaller number of guests. Not only did guests have to put off their charter plans, but there were also occasions when drinking or eating was not allowed on board and masks had to stay on.
WATER SPORTS GROW
Just like before Covid, day trips out to the Southern Islands have been the mainstay of boating activities. Getting away from the hot, humid bustling city of Singapore, you’re greeted by refreshing clear waters, clean air and no crowds, making it an ideal break from city life.
A Ferretti Yachts 720
Fishing is also a popular boating activity. Singapore has diverse marine life, coral reefs and big structures that are home to grouper, trout and snapper. When the currents are fast, there are numerous locations to target pelagics like trevally and queenfish.
Overall, all boating activities have picked up during the pandemic, with regattas full, dive trips happening weekly and wake sports as popular as ever.
Each weekend, you now see a lot more kayaks, paddleboards, jet-skis and boat charters going out than ever before. There has also been a big emphasis on marine life sustainable and conservation, which has shed light on the efforts of Narks (National Parks Board) and other groups making a difference in Singapore.
Pearce (née Rugdee) started working in the boating industry in 2005 and is Sales Director at Hong Seh Marine, which represents Ferretti Yachts, Riva, Pershing, Boston Whaler and Schaefer in Singapore. For more details, see Asia’s Yachting Leaders 2022 (click to open):
Based at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, the dealer’s record 2021 included the first Custom Line sold into Singapore and two Ferretti Yachts models.