Home > News > The definitive history of Monaco Yacht Show
Monaco Yacht Show is without a doubt one of the cornerstones of the industry. It’s the most coveted event of the superyacht calendar and it’s no wonder why; the line-up of superyachts on display each year is astonishing, and the docks are teeming with the world’s elite for a four-day event that showcases the pinnacle of luxury goods, and provides a platform for conversations to develop and grow the industry. Photo: Léandre Loyseau / SuperYacht TimesThe event was initially conceived as a broker-orientated event for yachts 20-metres and longer, but has drastically expanded on this offering – today Monaco Yacht Show is the most important event of the yachting calendar. “What started as a small private operation has now developed into a veritable behemoth. It’s undoubtedly the number one event in the global calendar,” Patrick Coote, European Managing Director of Northrop & Johnson, reflected. The inauguration event saw just 32 yachts moored along Quai des Etats-Unis, a fraction of what the event welcomes today. One of the stars of the first Monaco Yacht Show was a Heesen-build, and the Dutch builder has proudly presented a new build every year since. “We are extremely lucky as every year our presence at the show has been alongside our most recent launch. The opportunity to show a yacht is essential and instrumental when meeting potential clients. The Monaco Yacht Show offers the unique opportunity to showcase a yacht in its glory in a glamorous setting.” While records of that initial lineup has fallen into obscurity, Heesen delivered four sub-400 GT yachts between 1990-1991 so we can speculate that either At Last (ex. L’Acquisition), La Mirage (ex. El Corsario), El Lobo or Darwina (ex. Current Affair) was presented at the show. The yachts on display during those earlier years, all impressive in their own right, were far from the size we expect to see this week. Photo: Camper & Nicholsons Yes, this was a reflection on the industry, as superyachts have increasingly grown in size over the years, but it would be erroneous to think there were only smaller thirty years ago; there were just less of them. Between 1990-1 more than 200 yachts hit the water, 11 of which exceeded 60-metres. This upper echelon was dominated by the German Blohm & Voss, with its Lady Moura, Grand Ocean and Zeus all making their first appearance. In comparison to the 2021-22 period, 801 yachts were delivered and 63 of which exceed 60-metres. Photo: Camper & Nicholsons Photo: Camper & Nicholsons Monaco Yacht Show has captured this growth of the industry, as not only have the yachts themselves grown in stature, so too has the industry itself. Naturally, to deliver so many more yachts a small army of builders, suppliers, designers, brokers and the rest are required. Monaco Yacht Show has continually mirrored this growth; “it has naturally grown in parallel with the industry,” Arthur Brouwer confirmed. But the road leading to prestige hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing and the organisers have had to ply a degree of dynamism into the show to ensure that it remains pertinent to the industry.1991-1999: Inception and growth
The formative years of Monaco Yacht Show were all about brokerage; it was an opportunity for the new and well-established firms to network with suppliers and shipyards, while showcasing their fleet to clientele. The lion’s share of the yachts on display were then for sale during the early 1990s, and the approach was touted a great success – it served its means well.
Stuart Larsen of Fraser remembers those early years well, and notes that lined opposite the 32 yachts on display was “a small line of Turkish looking pavilions, no more than 10 or 15, prominent on Quai Kennedy.” Maurice Cohen, CEO of Media Plus and founder of Monaco Yacht Show had to work hard to lure certain businesses to the event, and some needed a little push. In 1992 Luc Pettavino took the helm and assumed the position of General Manager for Monaco Yacht Show, replacing Cohen. He developed the show for 18 years, to create the wold-class superyacht event as we know it today.“At the time Carlo Agliardi was a partner and driving force behind Fraser Yachts, as it was known at the time. Fraser had recently acquired an office in Fort Lauderdale and commanded an international platform, with headquarters in Monaco. Carlo was against yacht shows; he viewed them as a huge expense without adequate return either for the brokerage house or the yacht owner. However, they took part after a gentle nudge from the palace: ‘as the only Monegasque-based brokerage company, Fraser is expected to participate,’” Larsen retold.
Today, it is well known that Fraser plays a leading role in the event. This year, for instance, it is presenting two of the largest and most distinguished superyachts: Tatoosh and Icon. Notably, both yachts are listed for sale.
While the imperative of the show was to present the fleet of yachts on the market to potential clients, its nucleus that is cherished today was omnipresent; networking.
“My association with the show goes back a long way, back to those early years,” Espen Øino, world-renowned yacht designer, noted. “It’s a fantastic event because of how many people you can meet in such a short period of time. Not just clients, but colleagues, shipbuilders, brokers and friends. This is an industry populated by passionate people and most of us have been in the industry for a long time. For me this is what the show has always been about.”
Arthur Brouwer of Heesen echoed this, “The in-person element is unbeatable. We look forward to meeting clients, brokers, captains and press to share our energy and excitement. Yachting is an industry of people, and we enjoy celebrating our new ventures and current course of our company to everyone involved in our world.”
Monaco Yacht Show secured its foothold pretty much from the get-go and by 1993 it had outgrown Quai des Etats-Unis and extended to include Jetée Nord and Quai Jarlan. Amidst this growth, Cohen made the decision to sell the rights to the show to IIR Holding, which owned the competing, but not as successful event, Superyacht de Nice.
IIR Holding enjoyed the success built up by Cohen for its first year, but the show floundered slightly in 1995 to no fault of the organising committee. There was a growing trend of charters extending well into September – the month the Monaco Yacht Show is held. Thematically, the Monaco Yacht Show was at risk; the model just didn’t fit anymore. The client pool was drying up, as those with a keen appetite for the spills of superyacht travel were enjoying the extended season out on either their own yachts, or chartering others. Photo: SuperYachtsMonacoPhoto: SuperYachtsMonacoIt wasn’t just this seasonal overlap that Monaco Yacht Show had to contend with either, as on the other side of the Atlantic it was competing with a thriving scene of events in Fort Lauderdale and, curiously, Seattle. While the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show has remained a key event in the superyacht calendar it posed less of a threat to Monaco Yacht Show. Fort Lauderdale Boat Show has been running for over 60-years now, twice that of Monaco Yacht Show, and is owned by Informa Markets (who later bought Monaco Yacht Show). It’s always held a few weeks after the one in Port Hercule, providing plenty of time for exhibitors and participants to attend both events. Seattle, on the other hand, was a different story in the mid-1990s.
The North West of the States has a long, rich relationship with the sea, and as a result has always harboured a vested interest in life on the water. We have to remember that this was also the area of the world that pretty much cornered the forthcoming tech boom. Seattle was alive with activity and a busy calendar of yachting events throughout the year. This scene added a degree of retention for the US; so the Monaco Yacht Show threat was dual-pronged: an extended cruising scene in Europe and a successful event calendar in the US.
It has to be remembered that during those early years, the Monaco Yacht Show wasn’t as it is today; yes, it displayed the titans of the industry, but nothing to the size of which they are today. Smaller shows such as Boats Afloat, which has successfully run since 1978, and the now defunct superyacht exhibition in Kirkland, were serious contenders. While the suburb east of Seattle may seem like an unlikely site for a superyacht gathering, it, like greater Seattle, had a vibrant scene. Just a few weeks prior to the superyacht event that troubled Monaco Yacht Show, it hosted the Antique and Classic Boat Show and Carillon Festival of the Arts, which was held at Carillon Point Marina. According to a report in The Seattle Times, published in 1996, the show truly represented maritime history with over 60 boats on display, as it advised its readers on how to define the vessels berthed at the shows. “If you go to the show, other terms you should know are “antique,” which means the boat was built between 1919 and 1942, “classic,” built from 1943 to 1968, and “contemporary classic,” built from 1968 to the present.”
In short, the Monaco Yacht Show had a problem that it had to contend with. The decision was to expand the show, focus solely on superyachts, and to use the Superyacht de Nice as a trade show that ran simultaneously. Rather than being solely business to client, it widened its remit to attract more clientele and it became more business-centric. The Monaco Yacht Show took the decision to be both business-to-business and business-to-client – it was a bold move, but one which we all know was worthwhile.
2000-2009: Turning the tide
As we passed the millennium, Monaco Yacht Show had confirmed its position. It had forged a new trajectory and gone from strength-to-strength, By 2002, it was attracting around 15,000 visitors with around 65 yachts berthed in Port Hercule. Vendors occupied over 4,500 square-metres of space with just over 300 stands. Cristiano Gatto, a leading Italian yacht designer, described Monaco Yacht Show as the “heartbeat of new ideas, new opportunities and new business.” This new course was then well-received across the board. “It is one of those rare moments when all kinds of players in the yacht industry meet in the same place, at the same time. It’s extremely important.”Photo: BurgessPhoto: BurgessThe mid 00s saw the second and final change of ownership of Monaco Yacht Show, as the FTSE 100 firm Informa Markets acquired IIR for €1.4 billion. Coinciding with this acquisition was further expansions with the business-to-business area of Monaco Yacht Show with an all-new Darse Sud exhibition tent, an area dedicated for the presentation of nautical equipment and technology. “There was also a greater focus during this period in providing information and seminars to new potential owners and charterers, to assist their journey into the world of yachting,” Richard Lambert, Head of Sales at Burgess, explained. “Monaco Yacht Show, in collaboration with leading yachting companies such as Burgess, was creating a more interactive experience for its visitors.”“The waiting list for exhibiting a yacht was as long as the official list of superyachts on display! We were all hit by the crisis and there was something different in the air at the 2008 show,” Johan Pizzardini, Head of Communications & Media at Monaco Yacht Show explained. “Still, as organisers, our mission was to keep on delivering a highly qualitative superyacht hub for the industry and support it as it sailed out of the doldrums!”Photo: BurgessBut even amidst this global crisis, Monaco Yacht Show was able to pull-out all the stops and attract a global audience. Some of the stars of the 2008 event included Lürssen’s Kismet, Feadship’s Flag, (ex. Fortunato), Benetti’s Platinum (ex. Alibella) and Golden Yachts’ O’Neiro.
2010-2014: Milestones and expansions
Monaco Yacht Show had grown magnificently by 2011 and it breached the 100 superyacht milestone. In twenty years, the show had grown three-fold – quite the milestone. Building on this success, the following year it started to widen its scope and launched the Upper Deck Lounge – where new luxury brands could exhibit their goods.
By 2015, “we were able to welcome dozens of 80-metre plus superyachts in the port, which was significant of how the show has turned into a prominent platform to support the industry’s growing market in parallel with the clients’ requests for larger yachts ” Johan Pizzardini of Monaco Yacht Show explained. Photo: Aurélien Herman / SuperYacht TimesPhoto: Camper & NicholsonsPhoto: Camper & NicholsonsIt is clear that Monaco Yacht Show “has grown – apace with the industry itself – beyond recognition,” as Stuart Larsen aptly noted. “A success story for the principality of Monaco in terms of branding and revenue. The show now encompasses numerous other sectors and suppliers, ones which are incidental rather than central to yachting. The yachts attract a spendy segment of Ultra high-net-worth individuals, and consequently the show has shifted from yachts to luxury. As a branding and network opportunity, it is unique.”Photo: Le Monde du Yachting“For the core players, the builders, the brokerage houses and the owners themselves, who are focused on the sale of yachts, this expansion is not necessarily a good thing,” Larsen continued. “From a sales perspective, the purpose of the show has sidetracked. And given the high fees, for brokerage it’s a moot point whether the investment outweighs the cost.”It was during these years that Monaco Yacht Show became more than a show – it became a synonym of luxury and high-class living. Anyone who was anyone attended the event. And the organising committee certainly created a spectacle. The principality of Monaco itself has not only benefited but proved instrumental in creating such prestige. As a resident of the principality and as vice president and founder of Cluster Yachting Monaco, Espen Øino understands why better than most:
“One of the many attractions of Monaco is the fact that clients are very happy to go there. It’s an extremely safe country and there’s a lot on offer in terms of shopping and restaurants – it’s really on par with New York and London. On top of that it has one of the best yacht clubs in the world, which sits at the heart of Monaco Yacht Show.”2015-2019: Supercars, tenders and toys
Throughout this great boom, the show wasn’t just expanding across the Quays, the docks themselves were teeming. Port Hercule was overflowing and the harbour was studded with superyachts during the event. “Yacht shows are a wonderful celebration of the latest and greatest in the superyacht world and, therefore, represent an excellent opportunity for yacht owners or prospective buyers to discuss a wide range of products and services in one place at one time,” Patrick Coote of Northrop & Johnson explained.Photo: Tom van Oossanen / SuperYacht TimesPhoto: Merijn de Waard / SuperYacht TimesDuring the 2015 event, Monaco Yacht Show proudly presented 20 superyachts exceeding 60-metres. The line-up was staggering and included the likes of Lürssen’s Solandge, SilverYachts’ Silver Fast and ISA’s Okto. But even with such a display, “for many companies in the industry, yacht shows are, first and foremost, a business-to-business networking opportunity,” Coote continued. “There is however a big question about the return on investment for exhibitors due to the excessive costs involved, but they all keep coming back every year.”In 2016 the Monaco Yacht Show committee made the decision to incorporate other facets of luxury travel; supercars. With its all-new Car Deck exhibition area, a new cohort of exhibitors had joined the stands. It’s true that many automotive brands already directly cater to the yachting sector with lines of furnishings and outfitting options. But this was the first time that they could present their own fleet of vehicles. That inaugural event included Aston Martin, Bentley, Hemmels, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Mercedes-Benz. It was a great success then, and continues to be year-on-year.Monaco Yacht Show was a raging triumph and had become the most profitable asset in Informa Markets’ portfolio. The business-to-business element was instrumental in its success, but it had quite clearly overshadowed the initial intentions of the show. “Monaco Yacht Show was historically a business-to-client event and we’re working to bring this to be the central focus again,” Theo Hooning, Secretary General of the Superyacht Builders Association, explained. “We want Monaco to focus on the customer experience, and not the whole supply chain.”Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesAs part of this drive, in 2017 it opened the Sapphire Experience and the Tender & Toy area, which allowed clients to not only see the superyachts themselves but also the toys that enhance the whole experience. “Tenders and toys have really been brought to the forefront of the show and we have certainly had a big part to play in that,” Richard Booth, Senior Project Manager at Superyacht Tenders and Toys, said. “There are now more and bigger tenders than ever, thanks to a growing demand and appetite for off-the-beaten-track adventure”. By 2018 Monaco Yacht Show was welcoming more than 120 yachts to Port Hercule, 20 percent of which exceeded 60-metres in length. As always the fleet was spectacular and included Feadship’s Aquarius, Oceanco’s DAR (ex. Shark) and China’s flagship superyacht, Illusion Plus by Pride Mega Yachts. It also welcomed Turquoise’s Go, Abeking & Rasmussen’s Elandess and Tankoa’s Solo – all over 60-metres and all delivered the year of the event.Photo: Turquoise Yachts“Besides accommodating bigger and more yachts, the organisers were working closely with the port authorities to create a safe, all-comprehensive, luxury experience for its visitors, vendors and the yachts,” Arthur Brouwer of Heesen reflected. “Thanks to the synergy with the SYBAss, the area and service dedicated to the builders of large yachts has significantly improved over the years, and today is close to perfection.” Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesPhoto: FeadshipPhoto: FeadshipAhead of the 2019 event, Albert II, Prince of Monaco, wrote: “Since the launch in 1991 of the Monaco Yacht Show, the event has enjoyed year after year a remarkable success, which promotes a prestigious image of the Principality throughout the world. Monaco Yacht Show is the quintessence of the yachting industry, attracting the leading companies worldwide of this industry. These activities, well established in Monaco, play an active role in our economy and within the international yachting community.”Photo: Guillaume PlissonMore than 125 yachts were presented in 2019, and included 45 new-builds that were delivered the same. The largest of those included Lürssen’s Alaiya (ex. Tis), Oceanco’s DreAMBoat, SilverYachts’ Bold and Excellence by Abeking & Rasmussen.
2020-2022: Pandemics and drives toward sustainability
As was the case with every event around the world in 2020 due to the global pandemic, running Monaco Yacht Show was fraught with risk – it was touch-and-go whether it would take place or not. In the end the committee wisely decided to cancel the event to keep the industry safe from COVID-19. It was the first time since its inception that Monaco Yacht Show didn’t run, but the year-long hiatus gave some breathing space that allowed for a reevaluation of how best to focus the event.
Photo: Monaco Yacht Show“Pre-COVID the event became a little business-to-business heavy, particularly for those companies exhibiting inside the show whose focus is very much business-to-client, especially given the significant cost of exhibiting,” Ben Young, Founder and Director of Superyacht Management, commented. “It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there seemed to be a natural division between ‘’inside’ and ‘outside’ the event.”Photo: Léandre Loyseau / SuperYacht TimesThe following year, Monaco Yacht Show returned with vigour, albeit face mask clad. It was the first year of the Yacht Design & Innovation Hub, sponsored by SuperYacht Times, a dedicated Sailing Yacht Area as well as a Dockside Area. “Whilst the pandemic demonstrated the flexibility of the yachting industry to adapt quickly to change, the return of the show highlights the enthusiasm that the professional yachting community has for them,” Richard Lambert of Burgess commented. Monaco Yacht Show returned as an event committed to Thought Leadership, where industry experts could share and learn about trends and innovations in the superyacht industry.Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht Times“Monaco Yacht Show has become one of the pivotal appointments in our annual agenda,” Cristiano Gatto noted. “It is a time when we can draw conclusions from all that has been achieved so far, while simultaneously providing an opportunity to come up with new ideas for the future. It definitely has a consistent and yearly impact on our business.”
“The show has a positive impact in every way possible,” Ben Young added. “My business would not have grown and developed without the benefits that come from Monaco Yacht Show, and other similar events.”
“It’s hard to measure the return on investment of each show in our part of the industry,” Tanguy Ducros, Chief Executive Officer of Monaco Marine, contributed. “But it allows us an opportunity to meet people with whom we could generate business.”
Photo: Léandre Loyseau / SuperYacht TimesBut others, brokers in particular, are understandably more skeptical about the show’s return on investment strictly in terms of sales. “In almost 30 years I have only seen one sale come directly out of the show. A very poor return on investment,” Stuart Larsen commented. “Quantifying the exact return on investment for companies isn’t easy, though. Maybe, as has happened in a couple of cases, the impending show has created a sense of urgency for a buyer who doesn’t want to get pipped at the post by another client. Ultimately Monaco Yacht Show’s draw lies in the branding opportunity it provides for companies, rather than the direct financial return.”Photo: Léandre Loyseau / SuperYacht Times“For some owners, Monaco Yacht Show represents a timely opportunity to sell their yacht at the end of the summer season, and for this reason it can certainly be beneficial to put yachts in the show,” Patrick Coote of Northrop & Johnson added. “Overall, however, the sales directly attributed to the show represents less than five percent of our annual sales.”It is precisely for this reason why so many of the yachts on display are not actually for sale. Many, of course, are, but a large proportion are available for charter and not sale. What can be agreed upon though is the sheer spectacle of the event. During the 2021 Monaco Yacht Show, Benetti presented its flagship IJE alongside Feadship’s Viva, Bilgin Yachts’ Tatiana and Nobiskrug’s Artefact. Photo: Bilgin YachtsPhoto: Bilgin YachtsLooking forward to this year’s event, Monaco Yacht Show is championing sustainability with a dedicated hub, organised by the Water Revolution Foundation. One can hope that just as Monaco Yacht Show has reflected the flows of the superyacht industry, it continues to do so with this commitment to preservation of the seas. The Sustainability Hub is set to be as informative as it’ll be inspiring. More than 100 yachts are scheduled to be presented this year. Visitors to 2022 Monaco Yacht Show will have the opportunity to see Lürssen’s Ahpo, Golden Yachts’ Project X, Amels’ Energy and many more. Photo: Guillaume Plisson“Each show has its own personality and targets a specific market,” Richard Lambert of Burgess concluded. “And we’ve found that there are a number of shows and events that can act as a positive sales event whilst others act more as a showcase for the yachting industry as a whole and may ignite an enthusiasm in yachting. Regardless of which camp they live in, every show allows us to meet with clients in-person and inspect yachts for sale and charter, which is very valuable.”
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