Luxury lifestyle makes Phuket heavy hitter in Asia yachting scene [video]

PHUKET: Phuket’s marine industry is tapping global growth in the lucrative superyacht segment thanks to the unique luxury lifestyle the island offers and a sharp rise in the number of such vessels coming to Asia.

Thailand’s largest island is already well established on the regional and global sailing circuits. However, industry players say increased investment in specialist facilities could see Phuket become Asia’s superyacht destination of choice.

Candy GPS Report, which only considers vessels costing more than US$24 million, shows the number of superyachts tripled globally from 74 to 212 over the past five years.

Phuket is already punching above its weight in attracting its share of super-luxury vessels sailing to

The superyachts at the 2014 Rendezvous brought a luxurious ambience to Kata Bay. Video: PGTV

says Gareth Twist, managing director of Yacht Solutions.

“In terms of marinas and yachting events, Phuket is at the forefront in Southeast Asia,” he says. “We already have four excellent marinas and established annual yachting events. The yachting industry infrastructure in Phuket is improving every year. Marinas are expanding and more events and yacht shows are being added to the calendar.”

Gordon Fernandes, general manager of Asia Pacific Superyachts and co-organiser of the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous, says that Phuket has benefited from the “phenomenal growth” in superyachts – defined as yachts which are more than 24m long – coming to Asia, largely due to growth in luxury resorts and related infrastructure. Key source markets are Singapore, Hong Kong and China, followed by the US, Europe and Australia, as well as yachts stopping off in Phuket as part of a global voyage.

“Owners can party at a beach club, go diving in the Similan islands or find total peace and seclusion cruising to Myanmar’s Mergui archipelago, just up the coast,” he says. “The huge variety means more owners are choosing to base their boats on Phuket for the cruising season. The success of events like the annual Asia Superyacht Rendezvous reflect that growth.”

The annual King’s Cup Regatta, Superyacht Rendezvous, PIMEX and the Phuket Yacht Show, which will hold its inaugural event later this year, help position Phuket as a “buzz-word destination” within the ultra high net worth (UNHW) segment, says Zara Tremlett of Yacht Haven Phuket, which will soon open a new 260m-attenuator dock and six 50m-berths, enabling the facility to service up to 16 superyachts at a time.

“The fact that the Phuket Yacht Show is a new event indicates the strength of the industry,” she says. “However, this is still an emerging market, albeit one with steady growth. While all marine developments offer various levels of maintenance facilities, the one piece of the puzzle missing is a dedicated yard for the larger ‘white boats’ or superyachts.”

The need for such facilities is paramount if Phuket is to attract more owners and charterers of superyachts. Annual running costs, which include maintenance, provisions, crewing and berthing fees, are broadly estimated at 10-15 per cent of the hull cost before customization. As many owners only spend between two to six weeks aboard their boat each year, a growing number are chartering their vessel to cover costs, though very few purchase superyachts purely for investment purposes.

Twist says the number of superyachts travelling to Thailand for major refits and repairs, which are typically required every two to three years, is on the rise. Phuket is missing out on that business as currently the only boatyards big enough to handle the vessels are in Bangkok. However, he is confident that addressing this gap would be a boon for the industry.

“What is desperately required in Phuket is a world-class refit and yacht repair facility,” he says. “Once a world class facility has been established in the region, the number of visiting yachts to Phuket will increase exponentially.”

Jules Kay is a marketing consultant, editor and content curator with 15 years experience working in the Southeast Asian luxury property, lifestyle and tourism sectors. His latest project is an exclusive mixed-use residential resort development on Kamala Beach (

— Jules Kay

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