Friday 30th June saw the next generation of consumers and the sustainable innovations driving the yachting industry’s energy transition take centre stage during the first World Yachting Sustainability Forum, held in Genoa. The event was a world first, organised by International Boating Industry (IBI) and the Italian Marine Industry Association, with the support of McKinsey and Company.
Speakers included: Troy Baltic, Michael Harney, Jakob Fleischmann and Erik Dellborg representing McKinsey and Company, Stefano Pagani Isnardi (Italian Marine Industry Association), Eugenio Blasetti (Mercedes) Michele Francioni (MSC Cruises), Jeff Wasil (NMMA), Nicola Pomi (Volvo Penta), Carlo Iacovini (Energica), and event moderator Ed Slack (IBI). Animating the keynotes and panel discussions were an analysis of tomorrow’s consumers and future solutions for sustainable yachting, despite the industry’s minimal environmental impact and already considerable investments committed to technological developments. Topics included the need for tailored solutions across such a segmented industry, a much broader approach to sustainable fuelling allowing not just for more electric recharging stations but greater access to biofuels, and how the sector must cater to everyone, from today’s owners to the growing demand of tomorrow’s consumers, a generation keenly focused on technological and sustainable innovation.
This event and these key points will be picked up again at this year’s 63rd Genoa International Boat Show (21st – 26th September). "The aspects covered in this first edition of the World Yachting Sustainability Forum, an event we organised in partnership with IBI, are extremely topical for our sector and are in line with the Italian Marine Industry Association’s agenda for the years ahead, one that is already committed to the strategic objective of digital and green innovation. In fact, our companies are in the midst of this very transition, which will attract new consumers but also new talent and investment," stated Marina Stella, General Manager of the Italian Marine Industry Association. The study presented today by McKinsey and Company confirmed that the average age of boat owners will see a further reduction. The consumer who is within the 35-45 age bracket is noticeably attentive to issues concerning technological and sustainable innovation, and the yachting industry has, for some time now and following its own initiative, carried out a series of initiatives aimed at achieving a significant reduction in environmental impact compared to the past. The Italian Marine Industry Association will continue its fundamental role in raising awareness among the sector's companies, accompanying them in this transition, including through the construction of transversal networks and discussions within the Association's Sustainability Committee, which plays an active role at all international tables to support these issues".
Stefano Pagani Isnardi, Head of the Market Intelligence and Research Department of the Italian Marine Industry Association commented: "The yachting industry, despite being a sector with a truly minimal environmental impact, has been investing heavily and for a long time in technological innovation, and is now entering the real transition phase that looks towards new sustainability goals, establishing an ideal horizon of 2035. It is certainly necessary for the yachting industry to examine a variety of technological solutions that best suit the different market segments and the various types of use when it comes to leisure boats. The role of an association such as ours is therefore to ensure our companies have the possibility of carrying out research and development in every direction, under the best regulatory and bureaucratic conditions, not only on a national level, but with a particular focus on achieving a level of homogeneity on an international level."
"This is undoubtedly the major challenge and possibly the greatest opportunity to face the yachting industry in recent times," was how Ed Slack, editor-in-chief of IBI - International Boat Industry, billed the sector’s path towards carbon neutrality, as he kicked off the conference alongside the President of the Italian Marine Industry Association, Saverio Cecchi. Saverio Cecchi continued the opening statements by illustrating the pioneering role that the Italian yachting industry is playing in meeting the challenges of the future and managing new opportunities; his words were followed by those of the Mayor of Genoa, Marco Bucci, who emphasised the role that the city has taken on in supporting the yachting industry and its mission to make Genoa the 'yachting capital of the Mediterranean'.
All speakers agreed on the need for a collective approach by the yachting industry, highlighting that there is no single solution to de-carbonise the sector. The key is a summation of results, building efficiency and adopting different propulsion systems depending on the sector. Michael Harney of McKinsey and Company then presented to the audience the customer profile of the future, outlining potential strategies that cater to the profile of a new generation of yachting enthusiasts, their values and therefore their propensity to purchase, which is significantly different from that of the past.
IBI Editor Ed Slack emphasised that the ongoing discussion and debate are essential in shaping the industry's response to the sustainability challenge, but action remains paramount. Harney then closed his presentation by outlining a plan of action, in which developing a detailed vision of the future client and defining operational changes become necessary to correctly place a brand in today's market and thus respond to the needs of a new, younger generation of consumers - with Generation Z set to overtake Millennials by 2036 - for whom sustainability and digitisation are of unmatched importance.
In short, the industry requires a collective approach: to cooperate where possible, evolve and resist the driving urge to hunt for quick fixes. "We need to be pragmatic," Wasil added. The yachting industry is in a privileged position to learn from other sectors that are further along the decarbonisation path, sharing in the general realisation that the time is indeed ripe to act: the markets are transforming and it is a strategically apt time for the industry to invest in reaching tomorrow's consumer.
“This edition of the World Yachting Sustainability Forum is only the first chapter. Debate and the exchange of ideas are essential to determining the direction of travel, but a plan of action is crucial," summed up Ed Slack in conclusion. " The insights we’ve been privy to this morning are encouraging: the yachting industry is making progress. Needless to say, we can and must do more. Forums such as this are vital in encouraging a collective approach: no single industry can succeed alone. The industry must pull together to convince governments, legislators and consumers that it has the skills and tools to manage the transition.