S'pore marina tycoon aims to expand, woo Chinese market

Mr Tay plans to add some 20 marinas under its management in the next few years and entice some of the roughly 120 million Chinese who travel abroad every year.
Mr Tay plans to add some 20 marinas under its management in the next few years and entice some of the roughly 120 million Chinese who travel abroad every year. ST FILE PHOTO

The tycoon behind a Singapore berth for mega-yachts is hoping hot towels and rice-porridge breakfasts can attract Chinese tourists to marinas and leisure boats in European destinations like Venice, Ibiza and Cinque Terre.

Mr Arthur Tay, chief executive officer of SUTL Enterprise, plans to add some 20 marinas under its management in the next few years - at the rate of four annually - and entice some of the roughly 120 million Chinese who travel abroad every year.

Mr Tay, who owns 51 per cent of the majority shareholder of SUTL Enterprise, wants to market the marinas as places where people can dine, shop or hold parties even if they do not own luxury boats. 

"You don't have to own a yacht; it's not expensive if you don't want a super yacht or a big boat, it's not expensive if you don't take the boat out," said Mr Tay, adding that coastal tourism spots in Sri Lanka and Phuket were among locations he was also considering.

SUTL Enterprise rose as much as 5.6 per cent to $0.755, its highest level since February 2013, in Singapore trading before closing at $0.73 yesterday.

It owns the ONE15 Marina Club on Singapore's Sentosa Cove, where Australian heiress Gina Rinehart and telecommunications billionaire Bhupendra Kumar Modi have bought homes.

The firm, which has a $62 million market capitalisation, operates a marina in New York. Last month, it announced a deal to manage marinas in Indonesia and China.

Mr Tay, who owns a super yacht himself, is betting that Mandarin-speaking staff and flourishes of "Asian hospitality", such as offering guests hot towelettes, can broaden the appeal of leisure boating among "affluent and lifestyle-hungry" Asian visitors to Europe.

According to the European Boating Industry, which represents leisure boating players in the region, tourists from Asia are more likely to choose cruises over boating.

Recreational vessels are still more often used by Europeans and American visitors, the organisation told Bloomberg in an e-mail.

SUTL's plans will see it compete with over 5,000 marinas already operating in Europe's market which the European Boating Industry says have an annual turnover of around €4 billion (S$6 billion).

Mr Tay declined to say how much the company would spend on its expansion plans, but said investment in a single marina could reach US$300 million (S$414 million), depending on its size and function.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore marina tycoon aims to expand, woo Chinese market'. Print Edition | Subscribe