Following the announcement of Ione Astondoa’s employment within the family-owned Astondoa Shipyard, SuperYacht Times sat down with millennial and the fourth generation Astondoa, to discuss her decision to join the family business, her unique position as a young woman working in the yachting industry and the exciting developments currently underway at the Spanish shipyard.Can you explain what your position is with Astondoa? What are some of the projects you are working on?
“Currently, I am working between several different departments, because it's important to me to learn from each section of the shipyard. My dad, the CEO of Astondoa, has taught me and continues to teach me, so much about the ins and outs of the business. Each day is like a master class with him. I am part of the production and cost analysis department, which I love, and it's a very good way to learn about the process of manufacturing boats. I am also the head of the communication department, which is a challenge for me because I am developing new communication strategies for the shipyard. These challenges are due, in part, to the presence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been such a challenge for us, as well as the industry as a whole, because we are not used to communicating with clients virtually. We’ve had no other choice, but the results are positive and we are optimistic about our new communication strategies.”
As a fourth-generation Astondoa, was it always your ambition to follow the family into the superyacht industry?
“Of course, when I was younger, I had moments when I didn't want to be part of this industry, but at the end of the day, I have the desire to continue the family legacy in my blood. I am beyond grateful to now be a part of the industry, I really love it. I grew up between boats and by the sea. My cousins, who also now work at Astondoa, and I, grew up coming to see my grandfather and would get to step inside all of the action and excitement happening each day at the shipyard. Seeing my grandfather, my uncles, and my dad working so hard to make Astondoa one of the greatest shipyards in the world has also made me want to continue in their footsteps. I think that there is something innate about wanting to work for the family business.”You’ve said previously that "Female sensitivity and young talent have a lot to contribute to the visibility of industrial sectors ". How do you see your perspective as a young woman in continuing to push the yachting industry forward?
“I think that we millennials are fresh air to the industry today. My generation has been preparing to get opportunities in an industry, where acquiring young talent has never really been a priority. Having an outside perspective and a new vision can sometimes be a barrier in this industry because it can, in some ways, be conservative. There is less of a willingness to listen to new ideas when certain things have been done in a specific way for so long. It can be hard for the industry’s veterans to trust new ways of doing things, when former strategies have worked for so long.”
“For example, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to put trust in online strategies, which have given new approaches the opportunity to succeed in this sector. I believe that digitalisation and luxury already coexist with one another. Last week we participated in the first digital luxury congress and it was a complete success. In our industry, it is very important to be able to see and feel yachts. But under today’s current circumstances a digital approach helps to fill the gaps provided by the inability to do and see in person. This is where the integration of old and new strategies proves to be effective and where a fresh perspective and approach is advantageous."Photo: Astondoa YachtsThe announcement of your employment with Astondoa mentioned that “Ione Astondoa, because of her youth, belonging to the millennial generation, and because she is a woman, had to break down barriers when she arrived at the family company”. Can you elaborate on what kinds of barriers or challenges you’ve faced, and how you overcame them?
“I think there are two separate, but important factors at play here. The first of which is my age. This was no doubt the most difficult barrier I had to overcome because of the perception that I lacked the experience. In that way, it has been difficult to gain trust. But I kept trying and trying and demonstrating that a fresh perspective like mine in combination with the pre-existing strategies could be a win-win situation. Combining experience with the new outlook that young women like me can give to the industry, could be amazing. So that has been my goal, is to be listened to and trusted by the most experienced people in the company and industry. The second factor at play is the fact of being a woman. It is difficult, no matter the company, the country, the industry, to be a woman in this world. I am grateful because I see that old patterns are changing. I see that women are taking power across all industries, including the yachting industry. I am so proud to be part of this change. If I can use my voice to stand up or speak out for women, I forever will."
Astondoa has previously described the modern-day social environment as “avant-garde, where luxury has to coexist with digitalisation and sustainability”. How will the Astondoa brand continue to evolve within these conditions?
“We still have a long way to go in this industry to become one hundred percent sustainable. At Astondoa, we are working on new yacht models that could operate entirely with renewable energy such as solar panels. Also, at the shipyard and work facilities we have current initiatives underway to employ more sustainable practices. We are in the process of setting up solar panels in all of our facilities, using electric vehicles and implementing a specific recycling system, as a first step.”
Can you tell us about some of the most exciting projects currently underway at Astondoa?
“I cannot disclose too many details, but, currently, we are focussed on building yachts in the 20 to 33 metre range. Our clientele are really looking for smaller boats because they are more comfortable to navigate and easier in terms of bureaucracy. We launched the 25.25-metre AS8 in September and our design team is currently working on a new model in our AS range. Though we are catering to the demands of our client base, we do have the capacity to build larger superyachts such as the 60-metre 197 Steel model and the 125 Century model that is still currently undergoing the final stages of the design process.”