Italy’s yacht industry seeks greater support and recognition

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The morning after the latest Italian political corruption scandal broke in May with the Ligurian governor and influential local entrepreneurs placed under house arrest, pictures of them aboard luxury yachts loomed large across several national media front pages.

This was not the first time images of yachts, long a symbol of wealth and opulence, were associated with individuals accused of some form of wrongdoing. That is a problem for Italy’s substantial yachting trade.

“Our industry is always going to be undermined by the public’s perception, for as long as yachts are associated with scandals as opposed to examples of Italian engineering, design and manufacturing excellence,” says one influential senior yachting executive.

But the industry in Italy is now seeking greater recognition for its economic contribution, arguing that the country should do more to support a sector where it appears to have excelled.

Italy is home to many of the world’s most famous yacht manufacturers, including Azimut, Sanlorenzo, Mangusta, Ferretti Riva and Codecasa. A Deloitte report for luxury association Altagamma published last month showed that the country was the main producer of superyachts (those longer than 24m) in the world with half of the 1,024 current orders placed at Italian shipyards.

Deloitte points out the yachting industry “is a strategic [one] for Italy” both in terms of its contribution to the country’s GDP and of the spillover to other sectors and supply chains.

In 2022 the yachting industry had an economic impact of €27bn when including indirect revenue from leisure activities. More than half the impact came from larger boats, and data shows that the longer the yacht, the larger the spending per guest.

In a few coastal regions such as Liguria, the sector — alongside the broader shipping industry — is one of the most important contributors to the local economy. Universities in cities like Genoa and La Spezia, for example, host word-class courses in subjects such as naval engineering and design. And a wealth of local small and medium-sized businesses are suppliers to the industry. These include wood, marble, glass and steel manufacturers.

But of the 6,500 superyachts sailing the world, only 6.5 per cent fly an Italian flag. If the vessels do not have such a flag, their stay in Italy is limited to 30 days, meaning lucrative refitting activities are often done elsewhere. This all limits the sector’s economic contribution to the Italian economy, say industry experts who argue yachts and their high-spending owners should be seen as an opportunity.

Tommaso Nastasi, a senior partner at Deloitte, says: “A greater development of the yachting tourism industry and its supply chain can have an important impact on the Italian economy.”

After all, Italy is a country contoured by water and rich in islands and tourist attractions. While favourite destinations are the famed Capri and Aeolian islands as well as Sardinia’s Emerald Coast and Portofino, there are potentially many more regions that could be visited, especially in the less industrialised south where economies could be boosted.

The yacht industry believes the country does not have enough marinas and other infrastructure, limiting options. The Deloitte report found just 30 per cent of the berths available in Italy are in marinas equipped to receive yachts and superyachts.

The tourism sector overall contributes about 10 per cent to Italy’s GDP and the government hopes to see that figure rise. The greater development of the yachting industry could help achieve that. About 30 per cent of superyachts vacation on the country’s shores in any one year.

Other measures sought by the industry are increasing the attractiveness of Italian registration for yachts, bringing value added tax rates for chartering in line with hotels and simplifying bureaucratic procedures in areas such as checks on crew recruitment.

The world of superyachts is indeed a small one and in an era of tensions over wealth inequality, backing the sector may not be a political priority for any government. But the yacht industry is one where Italy has created jobs while companies in other fields have moved abroad or shrunk local production.

Giovanna Vitelli, chair of Azimut Benetti and vice-president of Altagamma, adds: “We must intervene to grow the attractiveness of our marinas, flying an Italian flag, booking charters on our shores.”

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