With a 9,000-mile coastline and a class of millionaires predicted to exceed 20 million by the mid-2020s, China would appear ideally suited to become a leading superyacht market. Yet a 44 percent import tax on yachts and an initial failure of manufactures to cater to Chinese customer tastes, resulted in underwhelming sales. With assessments of the Chinese yacht market, ranging from euphoric optimism to outright pessimism, here are three things know about the current market:

Chinese companies gain international presence

Although Chinese superyacht ownership has failed to reach the high expectations set in the late 2000s, several Chinese companies occupy an increasingly prominent position in the luxury yachting industry.
Based in Hong Kong, the Heysea Yachts Company Limited became the first Chinese yard to rank in Boat International’s Top 20 Superyacht Builders. Furthermore, preeminent manufacturers Sunseeker and the Ferretti Group are majority owned by the Dalian Wanda Group and Weichai Group respectively. Additionally, esteemed Italian shipbuilder Sanlorenzo S.p.a signed a 2013 joint venture with Sundiro Holding to build mid-sized boats in China. If domestic appetite grows — political climate obliging — such companies will be ideally positioned to court and capture possible Chinese superyacht clients.

Understand cultural idiosyncrasies

Compared to the marina hopping habits of European superyachts, Chinese boating culture takes a more stationary approach — by one estimate, only 30 percent of the 200 yachts docked in Shenzhen have ever left the harbor. Often viewed as a refined way to entertain clients, the demand for superyacht day boats has grown in contrast to underwhelming ownership statistics. With the domestic yachting culture in its infancy, yacht manufacturers should focus on accommodating the specific needs of Chinese clients from prioritizing the design of entertainment spaces to increasing the ease of renting superyachts on a short-term basis. One such example is the GIGA SEASON by Italian yard Benetti, a trio of superyachts designed with Chinese customers in mind.

An uncertain future

Contradictions in the Chinese superyacht landscape abound. Although manufacturing costs are 20% to 30% lower than those in Europe or North America, comparatively limited facilities and the ostentation of owning a superyacht in China has proved dissuasive for many. Consequently, many Chinese owners choose to purchase their yachts abroad and dock them in Thailand, Singapore, or Australia, but the ultra-wealthy stick to the Mediterranean or the US. Although the future of superyachts in China is uncertain, industry experts anticipate the growth of smaller recreational boats for use on rivers and lakes.