SAILING AWAY

Panama 2015 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Alejandro Cora, General Manager of Quality Yachts, on growth potential, demand increases, and the company's consolidation strategy.

Alejandro Cora
BIOGRAPHY
Alejandro Cora’s passion for boats started when he was a child. He began working in a marina at a young age and developed his love of the nautical world by learning everything there is to know about the sale, service, repair, and maintenance of boats through the marina. He is currently the General Manager of Quality Yachts.

Can you provide a background on the company?

Quality Yachts is over 25 years old, and specialized in the sales and maintenance of yachts in the Venezuelan, Colombian, and Panamanian markets. We have been in Panama for three years, representing brands such as Ferretti Group, Riva, and Pershing. Considering the crisis Europe is going through, Ferretti Group has been focusing more on North, Central, and South America. We opened an office and official dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we base our maintenance and services of Ferretti products there, while in terms of sales we continue to work directly with the Ferretti factory in Italy. We offer A-Class products, which is a European classification indicating that a boat has the best characteristics and equipment possible, in terms of design, technical specifications, and engine. Therefore, working with brands like Ferretti has enabled us to surpass any other dealer in this field in Panama. We also represent US brands such as Scout, Formula, and Chaparral. There has been a major investment in marines in Panama over the last three years, something that has been lacking until now; however, the yacht sector continues to grow, and we are well positioned with our focus on sales and maintenance.

The government continues to invest in infrastructure, which means greater growth potential, but also more competition. What is your competitive advantage?

There is still a lack of marine facilities and sport sailing brands in Panama. However, Panama is a natural market for this, due to its coastline on two oceans, and, of course, the Panama Canal; therefore, there is huge potential and possibility here. Still, there are no marinas for pleasure sailing and sports yachting. The government needs to incentivize the construction and use of new marinas, whether public or private, to meet this need. This will doubtless increase business for companies such as ours. More people will be able to buy a yacht, because they will have a place to keep and use it, and those yachts will all need regular maintenance. It was a good year in 2013, where we sold $15 million worth of boats in Panama alone. We aim to continue growing and expanding in sales, but especially in maintenance. Overall, 2014 was a stable year in terms of maintenance and most of the growth we saw was through customers who already had boats and needed maintenance and repairs. Sales are on another upward trajectory, although maintenance and service remains the stronger part of our business, which we can undertake for any and all types of yacht, be they American or European. We invest around $800,000 annually in our business, training our staff, and acquiring new equipment and technologies.

Is there much demand for used yachts?

It is a small market. The used yacht market today is large in the US and Europe, where new yacht sales have dipped sharply due to the economic situation there. However, here in Panama, the resale market is limited. Most of that is trading anyway, someone wanting to trade a boat in for a newer or larger yacht.

What is your consolidation strategy for Panama?

We have invested heavily in our maintenance services, because our primary market positioning is in maintenance and repairs rather than sales. We have the utmost faith in Panama, which is why we are present. Our clients trust in us and rely on us, and we want to sustain that and even build on it. Our clients know that we can replace their boat, or sell them a new vessel, and maintain, repair, and take care of that one. We are essentially investing in our reputation.