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Opinion: Why superyacht bad press is all of our responsibility

Ownership
Written by
Guest Author

By Mark de Jong, Marketing Manager of The Superyacht Life Foundation

The sordid world of superyachts. Floating lairs for Bond villains. Yachts purchased with stolen cash. These are just a few of the headlines that habitually plague our industry. Whether splashed on the front page of the New York Times or the homepage of the Daily Mail, these stories are responsible for serious reputational damage. 

While other luxury goods are widely seen as aspirational, lofty ambitions for the fortunate few, superyachts are often perceived as being gluttonous or even immoral. An industry without a conscience. 

It’s time we asked ourselves: are we happy with the way our industry is represented on the global stage? 

Planet Nine cruisingPhoto: The Italian Sea Group(Above: the superyacht Planet Nine starred in the this year's blockbuster film Tenet and was owned by the 'bad guy'.)

With more NDAs per capita than most industries put together and rather difficult-to-hide products, it’s no surprise that we’re an easy target. But that doesn’t mean we should take the blows lying down. There’s so much good within the industry that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. 

From philanthropic owners to the innovative builders and designers, we’re an industry that’s not short on good stories. But without sharing these stories with the world, how can we expect to change the public perception?Oceanxplorer research vessel Triton submersiblePhoto: Taj HoweFortunately, we’re not the first to ponder this and we can look outside the industry for inspiration. The Cruise Line Industry Association found success in recent years with their Cruise Forward campaign, illustrating the benefits of cruising and advances in sustainable technologies. 

And, after a certain Leo DiCaprio-led movie about the dark side of luxury (no, not The Wolf of Wall Street) came out in 2006, the industry in question responded with Diamonds Do Good, an initiative to promote the positive impact that diamonds have on communities around the world. 

And, just like the diamond industry, the superyacht industry also makes a significant positive impact across the globe from wealth redistribution to onshore spending. 

This likely isn’t new information for the majority of people reading this. We know our industry is forward-thinking, environmentally-conscious and provides employment to many. But while we know this, does Joe Bloggs? 

We need to go beyond championing our worth in industry media and start showcasing to the world that we are an industry worth its salt. An industry made up of talent, innovation and good people doing excellent work. No longer should we be epitomised by tycoons and tyrants but instead unrivalled adventures, exceptional lifestyles and the people who make it all possible.Monaco Yacht SHow 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesBut these arguments are difficult to make for individual companies alone. That’s why The Superyacht Life Foundation was established. We’re here to set the story straight; to blow our own trumpet until the world is sick of hearing about how amazing we are. A collective to promote the entire industry, with companies and competitors banding together in one orchestrated campaign, allowing the industry to put its best foot forward and showcase the lifestyle, people and places behind the superyachting good life.

And there seems to be widespread agreement with this approach. In a recent SuperYacht Times webinar, an overwhelming 83% of the industry agreed that a closer collaboration was needed to promote yachting. But there are costs to running such a campaign – especially if we are to reach the right people in the right places. Disappointingly, a follow-up question during the same SuperYacht Times webinar showed that only 36% felt this should be funded by companies across the industry. 

But if not, who? We’re fortunate to have the support of some of the most forward-thinking companies in the business who understand that it is their responsibility to reinvest in the industry they profit from. But more support is needed to take our efforts to the next level.

And there’s much to gain. We know that only a small number of those who can afford to engage in superyachting actually do so. We also know that there are some who are reluctant to engage for fear of being brandished across the Daily Mail. No owner should have to worry about the stigma that could come with superyacht ownership. Ownership is, in many cases, the apex of a dream; something that should be celebrated, not hidden. Cannes Yachting Festival 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesIf our clients, who invest such huge sums in our industry, are having to do so covertly, then we are failing them.

We’re also facing choppy waters with the pandemic disrupting usual sales channels and decimating the short-term charter market. If we are to come out of this stronger than before, we need to do so with a reputation to match.

As a collective, we can go beyond the individual brands, instead focusing on the qualities that attract people to superyachting in the first place. And there are many, from families coming together to explore the far corners of the world to the skilled craftsmen and women who work behind-the-scenes to enable these extraordinary voyages. 

You may have seen some of our stories on thesuperyachtlife.com. These stories shine a light on all things good in the world of superyachting and are pushed to new audiences by way of digital advertising. But we want to do more with our partners. Events that introduce the superyacht lifestyle to those unaware. A true PR campaign that results in positive coverage across global top-tier publications. Market research to really understand what our clients want. As a collective, we can do all of that, for the benefit of the entire industry.

It’s time to set the story straight. Less scandal and more sustainability. Less adversity and more adventure. But this is only possible with substantial industry support. Consider this a rallying call, a challenge for our industry to come together and raise our flag proudly. To say to the world, superyachting is inherently good.

Let’s grow the industry together.

Mark de Jong of The Superyacht Life FoundationPhoto: Mark de Jong

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