The 'future of yachting' is in Asia with Phuket at its hub, the leading global conference for the marina industry was told yesterday. Asia’s claim to be the world’s next boating capital was staked at the ICOMIA World Marinas Conference 2011, held in Singapore on May 10-12.
Gulu Lalvani, the developer of Thailand’s premier ‘luxury lifestyle marina community’ Royal Phuket Marina, stated: 'With the largest and most exotic sailing grounds in the world, larger than Mediterranean and Caribbean put together, the future of yachting is in Asia!'
He also confidently asserted that Phuket, where his marina is located, is now 'the most developed yacht tourism destination in the heart of the best cruising grounds in Asia'.
Phuket shines as the ‘Riviera of South East Asia’ for boating, he said.
Now in its seventh year, the ICOMIA conference was staged for the first time in Asia this year.
Underlining Mr. Lalvani’s optimistic outlook for Asian boating, delegates were updated on the progress of over a hundred planned and envisioned marinas across the region.
'Boating is increasing considerably in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, and therefore marina capacity needs to be developed to meet future demand. Local expertise in marina management is lacking in most markets and so there are many opportunities for marina professionals in this new and upcoming frontier,' said ICOMIA President Lorenzo Selva.
Mr. Lalvani specifically addressed the conference on how marina development encourages both nautical tourism and yacht chartering.
He said: 'Phuket is a living example of what a marina can do for nautical tourism – as well as what nautical tourism can do for a region and for a country.'
The Hong Kong-headquartered telecom tycoon recounted how he discovered 'heaven on Earth' for sailing on visiting Phuket for the first time in 1991 and playing a major part in promoting Phuket as a luxury yachting hub. Not only did he develop the island’s most state-of-the-art marina, recognised with a collection of prestigious awards, his influence went as far as successfully lobbying the Thai government to remove prohibitively high taxes on imported boats, encouraging owners to take advantage of the country’s exceptionally appealing maintenance and running overheads.
'Unfortunately, with over 200 per cent tax and duty on imported boats, there wasn’t much anyone one could do for the nautical tourism industry in Thailand before then,' he said. 'You need the support of local officials and the government. In 2002, however, I was fortunate enough to be able to make my personal pledge to Thailand’s former Prime Minister that if boat import taxes were reduced, I would give my word that I would develop a world class marina. He promised that he would and kept his word – and so did I.'
At Royal Phuket Marina, he has since created a world-class marina on par with international resort communities in the Mediterranean, Caribbean or Florida.
Only this year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand responded by declaring its confidence in Phuket to become a world-class centre for marine tourism.
'The authorities recognise the importance of nautical tourism in attracting higher-end tourists, and they see the importance of marinas in this equation,' said Mr. Lalvani.
However, an award winning residential land component such as Royal Phuket Marina’s is as much a key as its '5 Golden Anchor Rating' to ensure a return on capital, he cautioned.
But with a winning formula, he said marinas are a 'breeding ground' and 'natural habitat' for nautical tourism and yacht chartering.
'Nautical Tourism and Yacht Charter businesses help marinas to increase their occupancy rates and in return the marinas help those businesses to grow,' he added. 'You can’t only depend on local boat owners to do business, you want visiting boats, tourists rent boat cruises taking off from your marina, yacht charters and all sorts of diving cruises.
'You also want to host marine events such as international boat shows and regatta parties – even wedding parties. Because a marina is a highly desired destination at the water’s edge, it’s the perfect venue to host spectacular events. So there is an undeniable synergy between marinas, nautical tourism and yacht charter businesses. It all works together.' About Royal Phuket Marina
The world-class yachting hub on Phuket’s eastern seaboard is not only on the doorstep of one of the world’s most idyllic and accessible cruising locations, surrounded by hundreds of deserted tropical islands including Thailand’s famous Phang Nga Bay, location for the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and Phi Phi, location for The Beach.
RPM is a now magnet for the international jet-set, with celebrity visitors including Britain’s Princess Eugenie, Prince Henrik of Denmark, supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, former American Idol judge Paula Abdul and modernist artist Damien Hirst.
Thailand’s first world-class 'luxury lifestyle community' integrates luxury villas and condominiums with a Fisherman’s Wharf-style waterfront promenade of international restaurants and cafés, up-market boutiques, swimming pools, floodlit tennis courts, spa pampering and Phuket’s finest health and fitness centre.
It is also home to RPM International Exhibition & Conference Centre, Phuket’s largest single indoor events space for large-scale conferences and expos, society weddings and events.
Just a short flight from the regional business hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Phuket is meanwhile a booming tourist destination. Arrivals in 2010 rocketed by 22 per cent over 2009, reaching 3.5 million visitors, with Russia and China now emerging as significant markets.
For more information, please visit www.royalphuketmarina.com