Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Superyacht owners in $190m tourism plan

Campaign builds on NZ's good reputation for refits.

Megayacht A. Photo / Greg Bowker
Megayacht A. Photo / Greg Bowker

A new partnership between tourism agencies and the marine industry aims to double spending by wealthy superyacht owners and their crew to $190 million a year.

The campaign has been welcomed by a leading agent who provided marine and tourism services for the megayacht A and many superyachts which visited during summer.

A is owned by a Belarusian oligarch who spent millions of dollars on maintenance of the 6000-tonne vessel and cruising around New Zealand with his wife on a voyage he extended from a fortnight to more than a month.

Jeanette Tobin from Asia Pacific Superyachts has been pushing for more than a year to have the luxury tourism sector capitalise on New Zealand's strong reputation for refits and marine services.

Last year 35 superyachts visited the country. The group is seeking to double this by 2018. It is estimated that superyachts brought $185 million of marine industry revenue and $95 million dollars of tourism spending to the country last year and the goal is to double both in the next four years.

"It's nice to see that we've put [out] a call and it's been answered and they've come on board and been really supportive and asked what we need," said Tobin, who is not a member of the group.

Tourism New Zealand is putting more emphasis on high-end tourism and the government agency's director of trade, PR and major events, Justin Watson, said attracting more superyachts fitted the strategy.

"Targeting these high net worth individuals to come and experience our unique and diverse range of luxury products, experiences and culture is a core part of Tourism NZ's marketing strategy to grow their arrivals and spend while in New Zealand."

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed), NZ Marine and NZ Trade and Enterprise are also involved in the group.

Tobin said the successful visit by A, owned by chemical and industrial magnate Andrey Melnichenko, could be a trail blazer for other megayachts. There are about 30 of the 100m-plus vessels worldwide.

"It's such a well known boat that it's launched New Zealand in the megayacht scene. From now on he [Melnichenko] will talk to his friends and the captains will talk to each other."

She said Melnichenko - ranked 83rd on the Bloomberg Billionaires list with a US$15.5 billion ($18.07 billion) fortune - and his wife Aleksandra cruised to Waiheke and Great Barrier Island, the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa, Napier, Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds.

Russian tycoon Andrey Melnichenko and his wife Serbian model Aleksandra Nikolic Melnichenko .
Russian tycoon Andrey Melnichenko and his wife Serbian model Aleksandra Nikolic Melnichenko .

They enjoyed wine tours, went ziplining, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, dined at Auckland restaurants and had a hangi on an island in the Bay of Islands.

"They loved the food and loved the atmosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if they did come back but maybe without the boat."

She said that, as with other superyacht owners, they enjoyed anonymity and Auckland's relaxed feel.

Tobin said A was here for seven months. Another smaller vessel she handled was here for six months and one of the owners spent $80,000 in less than an hour on a Queenstown shopping spree.

Ateed's tourism manager Jason Hill said superyacht berths had been full over summer and the country's reputation was cemented as an easy place to visit for wealthy boat owners.

Ateed is about to release a study on the wider impact of visiting superyachts but marine industry figures show a visit by big vessels could be worth up to $20 million if here for major refit work.

The group would promote benefits of coming here, which would involve going to major boat shows such as Monaco. Focus will be on promoting NZ as a cruising destination, the expansion of infrastructure here and overseas; and refit, repair and manufacturing capabilities.

- NZ Herald

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