The Yomiuri ShimbunYamaha Motor Co. is weighing anchor on its boat rental and sharing services, allowing even top-of-the-line luxury boats to be rented short-term.
Since marine recreation has a deep-rooted image of being available only to the well-heeled, Yamaha is betting that attracting more young people and others to enjoy having parties and other events on boats will expand its potential customer base.
Since April, members of the company’s Sea-Style marine club for boat rentals have been able to charter a luxurious Exult 36 Sport Saloon boat worth more than ¥80 million. With an interior that oozes a sense of extravagance, the Exult is outfitted with bedrooms and even a shower. The rental fee for this vessel starts from ¥388,800 for three hours and includes a skipper, so that even those without boating licenses can charter it.
Yamaha Motor suggests that a boat like this could be used for more than just fishing, such as onboard parties or evening cruises to view the city lights. The company also hopes experiences like these could eventually lead to purchases of its boats.
The Sea-Style service allows members to rent fishing boats, personal watercraft, pleasure boats and other craft from about 140 locations around Japan and three locations overseas, including Hawaii.
Buying a boat often costs from several million to tens of millions of yen, followed by hefty maintenance and marina fees.
Sea-Style members can rent for six hours a fishing boat for about ¥10,000 or a luxury boat for about ¥250,000, amounts that are more in reach for most people.
According to the Japan Marine Industry Association, the domestic market for motorboats, personal watercraft and outboard motors based on shipment value in 2018 was ¥28.1 billion, a figure that had been steadily growing over the past decade. However, the bulk of this figure stems from larger vessels aimed at wealthy customers, while that for small and midsize craft for new entrants to the market has leveled off, so the popularity has not really taken off.
As of the end of 2018, more than 290,000 boats were owned in Japan, a number easily eclipsed by Western nations, where marine recreation is very popular, including the United States (15.76 million boats), Australia (1 million) and Britain (550,000).