Life at Sea
As superyachts slowly become a must-have item for Indonesia’s elite the question remains whether the country’s industry is up to the task.
Yachting off to an exotic location for a relaxing, and of course private, vacation is the luxurious pastime that so many of the world’s rich and famous enjoy. Whether it’s in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, the sea continues to be a prime spot for the wealthy elite to holiday with family and friends.
But while billionaires and celebrities flock to Europe or the Americas each summer to spend some quiet time aboard a luxury superyacht, what’s stopping them from heading to Southeast Asia, where some of the world’s most beautiful – and less crowded – islands lie?
With Indonesia home to more than 17,000 islands – many still virtually untouched and uninhabited – the archipelago is nothing short of diverse and picturesque landscapes for local and foreign visitors to explore.
Last year, 70 foreign superyachts stopped by Indonesia for a visit, not a bad figure for a country with just five marinas across the archipelago.
Bali in yachting terms should be the St Tropez of Asia,” explains Captain Cilian Budarlaigh, a superyacht agent for Indonesia who has spent the last 10 years in the country. “Right now it doesn’t have the marinas but it has everything on shore to support.”
When Budarlaigh first opened up his business nine years ago, Indo Yacht Support, there were just two superyachts that visited the country, a big change to the activity today.
But while he has witnessed steady growth over the past decade, Budarlaigh, who was a superyacht captain himself for 13 years, cites government regulations, ownership costs and the minimal yachting culture as some of the obstacles in the way of harnessing the full potential of the marine tourism market.
The captain, who is only one of three agents in Bali acting as a buffer to streamline visits from foreign superyachts, says compared with other Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia is not very user friendly. While the infrastructure for one is lacking – Australia for example has 650 marinas – Budarlaigh says it’s a complicated process, not in legal terms, but in practice.
“A captain goes to Malaysia where it only cost him $12 to clear himself and park on the dock,” explains Budarlaigh, adding that the process for Thailand and Singapore is also quite friendly and streamlined. “Here [Indonesia], every movement that you do, even if you want to take fuel you have to pay someone.”
It was this kind of behaviour that led the Irish-native captain, whose clients to Indonesia have included Sir Richard Branson and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, to work with the government to create a regulation in 2011 that offered transparency on the law for visiting yachts of all sizes.
“The regulation [Perpres 79/2011] was about clarity,” he says, adding that visiting yachts on average would spend around $1,250 per day. “When a superyacht comes to visit, there’s mechanics, electrical engineers and fuel that’s needed. I call it a trickle-down effect.”
Achyaruddin, the director general of tourism destination development with the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, added that the presidential decree was a postive step as it encouraged visiting yachts to spend more time in Indonesia.
“Indonesia has huge potential to boost marine tourism and we should be able to make Indonesia the best marine destination in the world. If we manage to invite 10,000 yachts per year, we may realise the huge economic benefits that won’t just be received by the main islands, but also to the locals in smaller areas.”
Budarlaigh, who is currently writing a white-paper proposal for the Indonesian government to suggest solutions to streamline the process for foreign visitors by boat, says he believes this luxury market will grow, but how quick will depend on easing the regulations and actual practices.”
“Yachts are a means to enjoy freedom,” adds the captain, who says despite some of the hassles his clients have enjoyed “extraordinary adventures” in the country.
“The sight of large yachts and the possibility that wealthy Indonesians get to visit on board can only increase the domestic demand for these luxury items and lifestyle.”
Paul Whelan, Simpson Marine’s general manager for Southeast Asia, echoed Budarlaigh’s optimism that positive tourism would make it more appealing for Indonesians to own their own yacht.
“It is definitely growing, not just Simpson Marine, but the market,” Whelan says, adding that he forecasts Indonesia’s yacht ownership to increase in years to come as more people became aware of the benefits – and lifestyle – of owning a yacht.
“We see great potential, looking at islands and marina development, it’s very optimistic,” explains Whelan, whose Singapore dealership has been selling yachts to Indonesians for the past decade, which led to Simpson Marine opening an office in Jakarta in 2011.
“We even see good growth in the smaller markets with the younger jet-setting crowd who already have the cars and money and now are looking for something else. And we will be tapping into that segment.”