Industry panel on board superyacht Cakewalk

North America is still the most significant market for the yachting industry, ahead of Russia and the Middle East. This was the conclusion of a panel of industry experts hosted by Burgess on board the spectacular motor yacht Cakewalk during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) last month.

Built by Derecktor, the sensational 85.6m Cakewalk is the largest volume superyacht ever constructed in the United States. Currently offered for sale by Burgess as Central Agents, the yacht represented the perfect platform for a discussion on the state of the market. The panel also faced questions on the importance of FLIBS for the superyacht industry at large, environmental responsibility and the ever-elusive question: where do buyers come from?

Burgess President & CEO Jonathan Beckett was a key member of the panel alongside President & CEO of Show Management Skip Zimbalist, President of the Florida Yacht Brokers Association Lon McCloskey, and Michael Moore of Moore & Co and Chairman of the Board for The International SeaKeepers Society. Jill Bobrow, Editor-at-Large for Yachts International Magazine, moderated the discussion.

The panellists debated where today’s serious buyers are based, with Beckett concluding: “North America remains our single biggest market. The appetite for yachting here is very strong. South America has an increasingly important presence in the yachting industry, and Russia and the Middle East continue to push the demand for ever larger vessels.”

The current trend for building megayachts was discussed further and the panel ventured opinions on whether this is sustainable. “Yachts are increasing in size,” said Beckett. “But, it’s a very finite market. There are probably only 50 people in the world who want to own a 100m+ yacht. Several years down the line, I could see there perhaps being 50 of those megayachts out there, with only 49 buyers.”

FLIBS has established itself as the most important yacht show in North America. Panellists were quick to point out that the show caters to many levels of clients, ranging from those looking for a small fishing boat, to a 60m superyacht. “Unlike the shows in Europe, FLIBS was designed for everyone,” said Zimbalist. “Our challenge is catering to each of those groups.

Zimbalist said that attendance on the first day of the show had increased by 40% from 2012, signalling that green shoots of post-recession recovery are now tangible. Despite these healthy figures, for Burgess, which specialises in the large yacht sector, it’s not just about the numbers. “We only need one man on one day for one yacht,” said Beckett. “We’re looking for active buyers.”

According to Zimbalist, FLIBS has a strong focus on the global market, with exhibitors from 35 different countries represented over the last two years. McCloskey added that the Florida Yacht Brokers Association also has a growing global perspective and is broadening its horizons, having recently attended the Shanghai Yacht Show, seeking new business prospects in Asia.

Sitting in the opulent environment of Cakewalk’s main saloon, the panel concluded that with yachts – no matter what size the vessel – it is all about the experience. Moore said: “You can’t replicate the feeling of being on a yacht. Once they experience it, they’ll buy again and again.” He went on to comment that there is an increasing awareness, benevolence and active participation by yacht owners and the whole industry in ocean-based charities. “Through organisations such as SeaKeepers we are getting better and better at giving back to the wonderful environment that facilitates both our leisure and our livelihoods, and this is very encouraging.”

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