Boating in Asia, and particularly in the Andaman Sea area around Thailand has some built in advantages over other regions to realize enormous more potential—but it would help if some bureaucratic changes were made. And while the King’s Cup and the Phang Nga Bay regattas generate headlines for sailing, the power boat market also has greater potential, provided some things happen first.
For example, on Phuket there are very few boat ramps to enable owners to back their boats into the water themselves. Parking the car and trailer while out boating could also be a risk in Phuket because of the jealously guarded spaces by local transport owners. Boat ramps are a very common practice in most other countries, particularly more “do it yourself” countries like Australia and New Zealand where small boat ownership is very high. But in Thailand, because of a bureaucratic mindset, this is not allowed.
Another negative example of how not to attract boaties to Thailand is during the famous King’s Cup regatta in Phuket. In the past we have had a situation where local boat owners were trying to charge yachties to go ashore instead of them being allowed to use their own dinghies for that purpose. The situation had to be policed in the end. This type of behavior is not conducive to good public relations for Phuket.
These are negatives that cannot be ignored, but there are also many positives. For example local boat brokers are noticing a trend in Asia toward purchases of larger boats in the 50-80 foot range, compared to Europe where they tend to be more like 20-30 feet. The main reasons are the benign sea conditions around Phuket make boating very pleasant for family groups and, most importantly, obtaining finance without conditions.
To explain. Unlike Europe and other Western regions, in Asia generally, including Thailand, boats must be paid for in full by the owner. Banks here will not loan on boats so the market here tends to favor more high end purchasers who can both afford to pay upfront—and also, as a result, buy bigger boats. This is a uniquely Asian thing.
Counter-acting this is the over bureaucratic nature of licensing and registration of boats in Thailand. Many dealers would like to see the law changed to make purchasing easier. Complicating the issue is that the laws in most Asian countries are completely different from the other.
Still, despite the somewhat conflicting nature of boat ownership in Asia, boat shows like the recent PIMEX show in Phuket are growing in stature and popularity. In its seventh year in 2010, PIMEX attracted more boats and exhibitors than ever, including a Pershing 80’ and a Ferretti 881, two super-boats. Boat brokerages and service companies report strong demand for both their services.
A survey by the high end website Luxury-insider.com showed Asia leading other regions in the purchase of super yachts. Of note is the number of super yachts owned by Indians. While super yacht purchases and chartering world wide took a hit last year, Asia held up better than the other regions. Asia is being predicted as the next super yacht playground, supplanting the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
There are numerous types of boats that can be bought or chartered in Thailand, such as single hull and multi-hull yachts. Boat hire and charters are growing business to the Andaman Sea islands. Yacht charters are also popular although this business has suffered during the recession.
The point about this type of boating is that Thailand, and Phuket in particular, offers all year round boating opportunities, including during the summer season. Evidence suggests that the vast majority of boaties around Phuket want, as Greta Garbo would have put it “to be left alone.” They enjoy the solitude, the lack of boats compared to places like the Mediterranean and the benign weather conditions of the Andaman Sea around the island.
Opportunities exist, for example, to develop more boating activity off Phuket’s less populated East Coast with trips to places like Phi Phi during the “rainy” season. Yachting, of course, is an all year round business. The growth of new marinas as an attraction to many people from Europe, and particularly Australia, to buy a boat and come here during the “down under “winter” is evidence of a trend even though there are some problems, created by nature, not man, where the east coast marinas are very tidal compared to the west coast, which are more open to the sea.
Phuket retains a value added opportunity because of the many pluses here, compared to places like Singapore and even Hong Kong, where the boats may, on average, be bigger, and certainly the bureaucracy is less, but the prices much higher. But more can be done by streamlining regulations, by allowing small boat owners direct access to ramps instead of having to meet the cost of a marina, by continuing to grow PIMEX as a premier boat show in Asia, by exploiting the all year round opportunities of the climate and the calm seas around Phuket and by offering more charters and tours to those people who cannot afford a boat and don’t want to own one, but who long for a nice day or so on the briny in someone else’s boat.
A Laguna Phuket Day Pass allows for use of the pool and facilities at other hotels within the resort.
More than 30 bars and restaurants are available to guests within Laguna Phuket and can be conveniently charged back to your hotel room bill!