As a little bit of an introduction, I have been living in Shanghai for the past 15 years, founded the first member’s run boating club in China (2001) and brought the first privately owned racing yacht to China (2003). I have watched the ‘scene’ gradually growing and along with it th China (Shanghai) International Boat Show which has had to go through two venue moves due to growth since I first attended the show over a dozen years ago and it has now reached 50,000 sq metres with 500+ exhibitors and a similar number of boats.
I have been asked by the show organisers to ‘spread the word’ so to speak and I would say that what is written below is my view as an on the ground observer which may differ to some of the comments made by people who – at best – have visited China infrequently, if at all.
“Are Conditions Right for a Continued Growth in Chinese Leisure Boating?”
The Chinese economy in hard currency terms is growing as fast (if not faster than) as ever.
If you just do the maths – in 2005 the economy of USD18Tr was growing around 12.5% = USD2.25Tr.
In 2015 the economy of USD68Tr grew around 6.8% = USD4.6Tr.
Am I playing with figures? I don’t think so, and besides USD 4,600,000,000 is quite a chunk of cash for China’s growing numbers of wealthy to play with in any case. China’s middle class is exploding and with all the extra disposable income that goes along with that.
Not just the middle class either. Figures recently released by ‘The Hurun Report’, China’s who’s who, showed that China now has more billionaires (yes – that’s with a B) than the United States. Additionally, for some time China has had more millionaires than Europe, and we are not just talking Eurozone here.
So all the high end product companies are here – right?
Watches? certainly, Rolex, Breitling, IWC etc, they are all here. Haute Couture – Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo etc – them too.
Boats – well here, strangely, the list is rather more incomplete. For example at the 2015 China (Shanghai) International Boat Show, the largest in Asia, the American Pavilion numbered just 12 companies, sure there are some big players here but many are noticeable by their absence.
And not just the companies either. Many of the national organisations that have duty to promote their industry seem to be ignoring the growing wealth that is clearly the world’s second largest economy and generally people with wealth ‘like their toys’.
They say you have to be in it to win it and the government is actually helping and encouraging.
On the sporting side, China has won a Sailing Gold Medal in each of the last two Olympics, Dongfeng Race Team (DFRT), originally seen a making up the numbers achieved a podium finish in the last Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) and Shanghai recently lost out at the final hurdle in the bid for the 2019 World Sailing Youth World Championships.
Xu Li Jia (Laser Radial Gold 2012) is going again in Rio, I would reckon chances are extremely high that DFRT will take part in the next in the next VOR and would be surprised if Shanghai gave up on the Youth Worlds having come so close this time round. China is not a country of quitters!
Boating, and sailing in particular is not only here to stay in China, it is gaining ground.
Some time ago the Central Government stated they wished to promote ‘water tourism’ their term for all things marine and, at a more local Shanghai level, Shanghai government recently announced a fantastic new initiative, perhaps feeling that with a city GDP in excess of USD 1Tr, having built the city’s wealth it is time to build the city’s health.
Getting their Citizens Fit!
In exciting plans released recently, the city fathers announced their aim to get 13 million of the city’s population actively involved in organized sport or fitness by 2025 – that’s just under 10 years and an ambitious target.
Having said that, Shanghai has a habit of achieving its ambitions! As an example one only needs to look at the Expo 2010, expectations not only met, but healthily exceeded both at the Expo site but all the promised infrastructure improvements were delivered an Shanghai residents to this day enjoy the results of those efforts. 3 Ring Roads and 16 Metro lines (so far) mean that, while there is still heavy traffic Shanghai with 23m residents continues to function.
And it isn’t just a ton of sports shoes that will be needed. A whole raft of hardware and software across all sports will have to be developed as time goes by and that included boating and the other outdoor sports represented and promoted at the China (Shanghai) International Boat Show and its sisters.
Something for the kids
And that’s not all. We all know that water activities provide some of the best outdoor sporting experiences. Starting people young often leads to a lifetime of sport and in news from the Shanghai Sports Bureau, it is clear it is not just the general public that are being ‘targeted’ in the new healthier lifestyle drive in Shanghai.
It has been announced that over the next 5 years Shanghai Sports Bureau aims to introduce a staggering 200,000 school children to the sport of sailing. Thankfully the city is blessed with a number of sizeable lakes as this breaks down to an average of 40,000 children a year.
This of course brings along with it, a healthy percentage of parents, sponsors if you like and take it from me, Shanghai parents don’t just drop off kids when they take part in this sort of activity they, and the grandparents, all take an interest in their children’s activities.
Plus of course a high probability that many of these kids will want to go beyond just that introduction. If the water leisure industry in the Shanghai and Yangtze Delta region needed a shot in the arm, it looks like it might just have received it.
It Has Just Become Easier to Come and See For Yourself
And a new policy for short term visas means that visitors from 51 major countries entering through Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing can now enjoy a visa free stay in China of up to 6 (six) days.
With China’s (and Asia’s) major boat show the China (Shanghai) International Boat Show running over 4 days this new visa regime gives ample to time to arrive, adjust, take in the show and experience the growing energy in the Chinese boating scene , a day of site-seeing (or quick factory visit) and then home. No need to write to the embassy or consulate in your locale and fill in forms. Just book flight and accommodation and come and check out the largest Boat Show in Asia in the world’s fastest growing economy (there’s not many governments that would be unhappy with China’s growth rate) – with the similarly fastest growing leisure marine scene.
(Author unknown, written for the organizers of the fair)
CIBS China Shanghai International Boat Show
China (Shanghai) International Boat Show is the most comprehensive and longest established boat & yacht exhibition in China, covering displays of its whole industry chain since its launch in 1996. CIBS has progressively established itself as the endorser and facilitator for yachting culture in 16 years. CIBS provides a platform for all the industry products, but also continues to further explore opportunities to popularize maritime lifestyle and yachting culture.
Location: • CN - China Shanghai
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