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Gaëlle Tallarida, SK 1998 : “ At the Monaco Yacht Show, we offer an exceptional experience"

29 January 2019

The Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) has become a must-attend event in the superyachting world. Gaëlle Tallarida, SKEMA PGE 1998, Managing Director of the show since 2010, has successfully made a place for herself in this male-dominated world, by offering her customers an exceptional experience during their stay in the Principality. And as a reward, she has the stress of always having to outdo herself the following year!

Have you always wanted to work in event management?

Gaëlle Tallarida: It was very clear in my mind. As a student at SKEMA I was part of the team that organised the Grandes Ecoles theatre festival, le Festi, in third year. That’s where my passion for this line of work was born. I enjoyed working on a tangible project. You focus your efforts and you eventually get to see the fruit of your labour come to life. So I wanted to continue training in this field. I ride horses and I did an internship in Monaco that combined my passion for horse riding with the organisation of a show jumping event.

After graduating from SKEMA, in 1998, I spent a few months working for the Monaco Yacht Show. At the time, the event, specialising in super yachts (yachts over 25 metres), wasn’t as big as it is now.

As a young graduate I accepted a job in Cannes, still in the event planning industry, but with a strong sales component. I’ve always thought that it’s better to get on the train than to stay behind on the platform. It was a great experience. Between two work assignments, I came back to give the Festi team a hand, out of attachment to my wonderful years as a student.

In the following spring, in 1999, the Monaco Yacht Show asked me back and since then I haven’t stopped contributing to its development by putting forward ideas, business evolutions and solutions. I’ve been its Managing Director since 2010.

 

What was the Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) like in the early 2000s?

The event was known nationally, but it had little international reach. There were some fifty exhibitors and boats. Gradually we built up a more comprehensive offering, in design, equipment and services, all relating to super yachts.

In the beginning, this was a phase of physical growth. We had to fill spaces, but with the right exhibitors. We travelled a lot to recruit, with very precise selection criteria. The chosen entities had to have great references and that’s still the case today! Given our wealthy, exacting and extremely high-quality clientèle, there was no room for errors.

Today we’ve reached our maximum capacity. We host 120 yachts ranging in length from 50 metres to close to 100. We have 600 exhibitors. Our model is B2C, but we’re also developing B2B. For example, during the show the shipyards are in contact with the designers... It’s become an unmissable event where innovations and new offerings are launched... We are the global leader in this arena.

 

What are the trends in the superyacht market?

Superyachting is mostly based on custom products because, in a way, yachts are the ultimate toy for grown-ups. We highlight the latest electronic navigation technologies, which are moving towards reducing fuel consumption. Specific equipment and fittings are developed. For example, the current trend is to have increasingly larger windows, so products must be sourced that resist the impact of waves. Overall, our industry is in good health.

 

Tell us about a typical customer at this show

Yacht “consumption” has changed. A few years ago, our clientèle was made up of businessmen in their sixties, nearing the end of their career. They bought a yacht for their enjoyment, because they had more time to spend sailing.

These days we’re also seeing younger customers, around 35 to 40 years old. We wouldn’t have seen this 20 years ago. They want everything fast. But to become the owner of a custom yacht, you often have to wait 2 to 3 years. That’s too long for them. They have a different view of space and time, and a concern for the environment that leads them to prefer chartering yachts rather than buying them.

Although more people are eligible now, the percentage of yacht owners is lower than it was 15 years ago. To encourage loyalty from our customers, we offer services. We organise conferences and educate them about the sector, because an informed customer will stay.

 

Given how specific your target market is, how do you promote the event?

Our target market is not easy to approach. We go and find our end customers where they are, during many trips. We tell them about the MYS during cocktail receptions, for example, with 30 to 40 guests. We know where businessmen get together for highly qualified networking. We work with prestigious hotels, like the St Regis in New York. As organisers, we don’t sell boats as such, but we offer a week’s introduction to yachting, in a stunning setting, with the opportunity to make some great contacts. Our strategy of focusing on the end-customer over the last 4 or 5 years is paying off. Very positive word-of-mouth is our greatest accomplishment.

Our customers trust us because we offer an exceptional experience. Our line of business is constantly evolving towards an ever greater quality of hospitality. We have become business facilitators. This takes a lot of energy.

Today, according to Forbes magazine, we are one of the must-attend events for the affluent.

 

The Principality is the ideal setting for such an event…

Monaco provides a stunning backdrop. After the Formula 1 Grand Prix, we are the event with the second greatest impact on the local economy. We work hand in hand with the Monaco Economic Board and the Tourism Board Office. Because clearly, the Yacht Show promotes Monaco. We share our contacts; it’s win-win.

But there is also a great deal of local pressure. I battle daily to obtain a bit more room, and logistical solutions, because it’s very complex to have 200 or 300 semi-trailers in the city centre and in the Principality’s port when setting up and packing up the show.

 

You received the “Manager of the Year” award at the Trophées du Club de l’Eco de Monaco 2018 ceremony. Is this a nice reward for your commitment?

It’s important to me because it shows recognition for my work and reflects the importance of the event for Monaco. This is a very demanding job involving a wide range of activities. You have to be really versatile, because it requires different skill sets: marketing and business development, but also a solid grounding in logistics. All this in an English-speaking, male-dominated world. Being a woman clearly adds a degree of difficulty, but I have always felt up to the task. The MYS belongs to the Informa Group, the global leader in events. The group trust me with the show’s strategy and its entire management. I believe I am now respected in this sector, I often say no to expectations, I have to resist powerful lobbies because I want to make sure the event remains profitable.

I manage 15 full-time employees to offer this superb customer experience with conferences, an opening night with award ceremony, a magazine, a website... My biggest source of stress is that each edition has to be better than the previous one!

It’s not always easy with two children, given the workload, but the passion is still there. Being passionate about your work is a key to success. Nothing comes easy and you have to work hard if you aspire to a job with responsibility.

 

Interview by Marie-Parlange (lepetitjournal.com) for SKEMA Alumni

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