How Superyachts Are Becoming Synonymous With Responsible Tourism


Long symbolic of indulgent luxury, superyachts are leading the charge toward sustainability, clean energy, and responsible tourism.

If it’s been a minute since you were last on a yacht, be prepared for a different kind of experience. Still the domain of the luxurious, superyachts are now also home to some of the most innovative tech and advancements in sustainability.

Monaco, one of the world’s top yachting destinations, has been leading the charge toward responsible yachting.

Responsible tourism in the yachting community

“I intend to encourage and promote our tradition for innovation which relies on technological progress to build a responsible future for yachting, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which I share through my Foundation,” Prince Albert II, president of the Monaco Yacht Club, said during Monaco Oceans Week earlier this year.

He’s not alone in his encouragement. Designers like Kurt Strand are now relying on responsible, green tech including hydrogen, solar, and bio fuels to power yachts.

kurt strand superyacht
Courtesy Kurt Strand

Sunreef Yachts from French builder Francis Lapp has recently begun increasing its efforts to make luxury catamarans more sustainable. Earlier this year its Eco range added the Sunreed 80 Eco—the company’s most sustainable yacht to date.

“The Sunreef 80 Eco is all about responsible sailing and relying on renewable energy. We are now pairing the industry’s most innovative solar power system with hydro generation. On top of that, the yacht will be able to save massive amounts of energy thanks to an air conditioning system available exclusively on Sunreef Yachts catamarans,” Lapp said in a statement.

The world’s largest superyacht, Somnio, which is expected to set sail in 2024, will run entirely on clean energy.

“Environmental sustainability is a key focus for Somnio, which is being built with the latest clean engine technology and advanced onboard equipment to help scientists and marine experts conduct research into ocean environments,” the company said in a statement last November. “Internationally-recognised experts will join Somnio’s itinerary to update Owners on the latest global challenges and solutions on key environmental and philanthropic issues.”

Yachts go vegan

There will be no scurvy when traveling the high seas in the German-designed VY.01, which debuted at Monaco’s Yacht Show last year. Like a number of other eco-friendly yachts, this one is powered by hydrogen. But it offers guests another unique upsell: a greenhouse and vegetable garden to help grow healthy fruits and vegetables while at sea. It’s been dubbed a “paradisiacal biotope.”

Plants aren’t just for the plates, either. Vegan yacht designs are on the uptick from faux fur and leather to bio-based and even upcycled materials, yachts are going eco in all areas of design.

“There are some really interesting materials emerging that are sustainable and attractive,” designer Gregory C. Marshall recently told Robb Report. Some of those materials mirror those being used in luxury vehicles such as vegan leather made from fruit, recycled plastic, bamboo, and fungi.

These materials are also becoming stalwarts of the fashion industry, with luxury labels including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and Valentino turning to sustainable leather and upcycled materials.

Superyacht greenhouse rendering
Superyacht greenhouse rendering | Courtesy

That shift has been spearheaded by Stella McCartney; the Brit’s label is ground zero for vegan and low-impact materials. Last month, McCartney released the label’s first and long-anticipated purse made from mycelium—the root structure of mushrooms. Other luxury labels are dabbling in mushroom leather too, including Hermès and Alexander McQueen.

“We need to change the idea that luxury means only natural woods, leathers or marble,” Tankoa Yachts CEO Vincenzo Poerio told Robb Report. “Once the quality is there and scales of efficiency drive the costs down, it will be a matter of marketing.”

For the yacht industry, these sustainable, ethical materials have long been viewed as cheap—but the tide is indeed shifting.

At the end of the day, these owners can buy anything and their yachts are statements of the pinnacle of their lives,” says Marshall. “I think the key will eventually be to get them to look at materials differently—to get away from the ‘classic equals luxury’ definition.”

Ocean conservation

Part of the yachting industry’s shift is because the world’s oceans are visibly under threat. Monaco has been leading the charge on environmental stewardship; other oceanic destinations like the Maldives, Greece, Italy, and the Galápagos that heavily rely on yachting are also stepping up to the call.

As climate change continues to heat up the world’s oceans and sea levels rise, critical ecosystems are being destroyed.

Courtesy Motoki Tonn | Unsplash

“The health of our ocean is at a tipping point as is that of our collective well-being,” Cassia Patel, Program Director for Oceanic Global, said in a statement last October. The group launched Blue Standard aimed at mitigating ocean decline.

According to Oceanic Global, ocean conservation needs to be a focal point for conservation efforts. In an historic move last week, the United Nations General Assembly declared access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment a universal human right.

Oceanic Global says too many conservation efforts focus on green and land-based initiatives that leave out what may prove to be the biggest piece of the puzzle; Earth is more than 70 percent water, which is vital to oxygen production, food systems, transport, and carbon sequestration.

“We developed Blue to inspire the people and communities that make up businesses and industries to take continued action for our blue planet, and to maximize the positive impact we can all create in our immediate spheres and beyond,” Patel said.


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