Yachting Malta needs to persuade all the stakeholders in the yachting industry to pull on the same rope, its new chairman John Huber told the Times of Malta.
The yachting industry is notoriously fragmented, with various organisations vying rather than cooperating with each other. This is something Mr Huber is determined to tackle head on.
“An authority such as Finance Malta has been so successful because everyone has been pulling on the same rope,” he said.
“In yachting, way too many entities were born and died within a few years. What we need is a cohesive entity.”
The format of Yachting Malta is perhaps not ideal: although it brought together the dynamism and commitment of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the determination of the government, it excluded numerous other stakeholders that represent value-added activities in the sector that are just as important.
“The public/private partnership (PPP) idea was great but now we need to refine it and to create something tangible,” he said.
“We had too many chiefs, not enough Indians, and no arrows,” he admitted about the original set up of the agency he has taken over.
It won’t be easy: the wide-ranging promises made when it was set up in April 2015 dwindled away with – according to various sources – very little achieved.
“We all had such hopes that there would be one driving force but in reality Yachting Malta has been dormant for the past years,” one source told the Times of Malta.
Although Mr Huber - whose two-year term will soon be put to an AGM for confirmation – has to manoeuvre within the PPP format, he is making a few important changes.
He is currently executive chairman until the post of CEO vacated by Wilfred Buttigieg is filled, a process which is in hand.
He is also sending an important message by moving its offices out of the Yacht Club to a location which will hopefully make more sense in the context of the wider industry.
“I would like it to be industry-based. I believe that once yachting is seen as another pillar of the economy, the rest will all fall into place,” he said, seeing the remit of Yachting Malta as being anything which was not regulatory.
We should not just sell them the flag and stop there
His background – from the yachting section of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry to tax advisory services – means that he is going to be looking at everything from viable marina sites which could spread the revenue across different parts of the island, to super-yacht registration and crew training and certification.
All of these have been mentioned ad nauseum over the years – most recently by Mr Buttigieg – so Mr Huber knows that there is a huge credibility gap that he needs to overcome.
Will his personal style make a difference? He is off to the must-attend event in the superyacht world – the Monaco show – and will stay 15 minutes out of town rather than pay the exorbitant fees in the centre, and he let slip that he would be flying back with a low-cost airline.
“You have to send the message that every euro we spend has to be justified, whether we are talking about sponsorships or studies. And we need to understand how to leverage the areas where we are already successful – like superyacht registration under a Maltese flag.
“The owners of these yachts are movers and shakers in the business world and we should take every opportunity to showcase what else the island has to offer. Superyachts should be a conduit into other positive investments,” he said.
“We should not just sell them the flag and stop there.”
He added: “If we co-host a dinner related to an event, then we need to understand who is there to make sure that we make the most of the networking possibilities and make the right introductions.”
Some of his ideas are a new take on old dreams. Take superyacht crew training. It has been mentioned several times over the past years, but rather than looking at the Nautical Institute and what it could offer in the technical sphere, he is looking more at the hospitality side which makes up much of a superyacht crew’s duties.
“Maybe we should be talkingto the Institute of Tourism Studies, rather than Mcast,” he pondered.
For now, the biggest limitation is the budget, especially forthe events he would like to attract which would put Malta on the map.
“I am not worried. The government understands what we are trying to achieve and the money will come,” he said.
“We are open to all. We are there not to posture and make noise but to deliver.”