Malta's third Superyacht Industry Seminar, this year entitled 'Malta: a better destination for superyachts', held in collaboration with the International Superyacht Society (ISS), Yachting Malta and Transport Malta, was aimed at evaluating how Malta is has evolved, is evolving and where it is going as a superyacht destination. While the seminar covered everything from tax to crew training, to charter to refit and repair, each sessions ultimately came down to the same thing: how Malta can better market itself to the outside world. The overwhelming feeling from speakers, panelists and delegates was that as a destination, Malta is actually ideally positioned to be a hub for superyachts. The problem is its image. "Perception is reality," said speaker Ken Hickling, president of the ISS, who compared perspectives from people who had spent time in Malta to the perspectives of people who had not. The two outlooks contrasted wildly, with those who had been to Malta commenting on the quality of work and overall attraction as a refit destination, as opposed to those who had not been considering it to be merely a "holiday destination for the retired".
"The challenge is making people realise that Malta is better than most people think it is," he said. Better marketing and promotion of Malta was at the heart of most of the morning's talks. For Ivan Sammut, registrar general of shipping and seamen of the merchant shipping directorate of Transport Malta, collaboration between Maltese companies is essential. "We need to work together in a collaborative manner with good dialogue," he told the audience. "Dialogue has always been part of the backbone to the success of the maritime industry." He suggested that the industry in Malta invest in collaborative marketing and this idea was carried through the seminar, with calls for a 'Maltese Island' at Monaco where all stands from Maltese superyacht companies would be in one area, much like as it is for New Zealand.
Hickling pointed to HISWA as a good example of a country's industry pulling together and collaborating successfully to promote their nation's superyacht capabilities. From a charter perspective, Fiona Maureso, vice president of MYBA, intimated that Malta had significant potential as a charter hub, but said that it needed to market itself to the right people in order to change perceptions and move it higher on the list of places to begin charters. She was keen to emphasise that the right people were the policy and decision makers: brokers, yacht managers and captains.
This idea of marketing Malta being the key to boosting its profile was something that was echoed by all present and became the main 'action point' at the end of the seminar, something that Wilfred Sultana, publisher of Yachting Malta and host of the seminar, was adamant should be the outcome of the event. For him, it was imperative that at the end of the seminar, clear goals were set out to action immediately as an industry. "You have to start moving forward right now," stressed Hickling. "Don't wait to lay the foundations and then move forward." A full report of the seminar will appear in Issue 148 of The Superyacht Report.