The advent and growth of the “sharing economy” in recent years has brought more efficient lifestyles and social infrastructure by sharing things, spaces, personnel and more through lease-and-lend agreements with individuals or companies.
This trend has breathed new life and ideas into rental businesses as well, and Yamaha Motor’s “Sea-Style” marine club for boat rentals is among them. It offers a solution for people who long for the boating life but don’t have the means to make the significant investment of time and money to buy, keep and maintain a boat.
With a growing membership since its launch, Sea-Style offers various boats and watercraft at affordable fees along with numerous service options. In this issue, we introduce the program’s role in Yamaha’s comprehensive marine business and how it deepens the ties among the sea, people and society as part of our Marine Long-Term Vision.
Bringing Boating to the Masses
Surrounded by water, Japan is by nature a seagoing nation but it wasn’t really until after World War II in the second half of the 20th century that the idea of using boats for recreation began to take hold. Beginning manufacturing and sales of FRP boats and outboard motors in 1960, Yamaha Motor sought to spread the joys of marine recreation to a larger segment of the population. The company started boating schools and hosting events for sport fishing, sailboat racing, group cruises and more to spread the marine lifestyle while building and operating marinas and watercraft storage facilities.
Offering boats for rentals has enabled us to combine our work to grow the number of marine enthusiasts with the business side. For people who love marine recreation, having a boat of their own is a common dream but to actually buy one entails not just purchasing the craft itself, but rigging it with the desired optional equipment, renting a space at a dock, the accompanying ownership fees (e.g., fees for periodic boat inspections mandatory for small-boat owners in Japan), and finally the fuel and other expenses to run it. This all comes out to a considerable sum that is financially simply out of reach for most.
After seeing services in certain areas of Europe and North America where people could rent a boat to temporarily captain it themselves instead of buying one outright, Yamaha started running the Yamaha SRV Rental Boat Club in 1997. Eventually becoming today’s Yamaha Marine Club Sea-Style, Yamaha expanded the range of services available over the years and coupled it with our boating license prep courses to provide affordable avenues not only for current license holders, but also for those looking to become one.
Sea-Style uses a membership system, with the standard plan open to license holders aged 18 and up (a typical Class 2 small-boat license in Japan requires passing a national exam). After a one-time entry fee of 21,600 yen, the monthly fee of 3,240 yen—cheaper than many smartphone bills—allows members to choose the boat they want to rent. Moreover, the prices are reasonable, with the 6-passenger Bay Fisher 20 being available for 3-hours’ use on a weekday for around just 5,000 yen (excluding fuel costs, gear rentals, etc.). If you can get five others to join you and split the boat rental fee, it comes out to less than 1,000 yen per person. Say you want to splurge on a six-hour summer vacation cruise with the 10-passenger S-QUALO. Renting the boat costs around 70,000 yen, but for a party or a big family gathering, spending time on the water is well within reach.
The SRV Rental Boat Club, the predecessor to Sea-Style, started in April 1997 with the market launch of the entry-level SRV multipurpose boat to make marine recreation more easily accessible.
The home marinas available to Sea-Style members are found at about 140 locations around the country, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. And the boats to choose from come in some 20 types (varying by marina) suitable for everything from cruising and angling to towed watersports. In short, members can choose a boat right for the activity they have in mind and in a desired location. Furthermore, new boats are brought in every three years and all craft are kept in top condition by the marinas. Members also have the peace of mind of knowing that every boat is insured to cover any accident.
Sea-Style members can also rent boats at affiliated marinas in Thailand and Hawaii, and personal watercraft (PWC) rentals will also be available in Guam from 2019. The freedom to enjoy marine recreation anytime and anywhere is what sets Sea-Style apart.
Only Possible from the No. 1 Brand in the Industry
As of December 2018, there are more than 23,000 Sea-Style members, and besides the standard individual membership, there are family, group and corporate memberships for multiple boat license holders as well as the Sea-Style Jet membership for those only interested in our WaveRunner personal watercraft. To spur membership, Yamaha also holds events at different home marinas to give people a taste of what it’s like to be a Sea-Style member.
After becoming a member, there are also perks like cashback rewards based on length of membership, frequency of rentals or with the purchase of a new Yamaha boat or PWC. Furthermore, there is a plethora of programs and events planned to keep members active and promote rentals. These include classes for mastering boat operation, docking and departures for members still not confident in their piloting skills, a class teaching the basics of boat fishing for those new to marine recreation, and events giving members a prior introduction to a new marina or opportunities for experienced staff around the country to share their boating knowledge and skills.
Since entering the marine industry, Yamaha has engaged in various programs to introduce people to the joys of marine recreation. Along with our boat license courses, Sea-Style lies at the core of these efforts.
In particular, what has drawn attention in recent years is Sea-Style’s corporate membership option. For organizations or companies with three boat license holders that register for corporate membership, two Sea-Style Light corporate membership cards are issued, allowing any unlicensed employees to use them to rent boats with a skipper at around 20 locations. Some companies also choose to use this system for boat fishing or cruising over the traditional business golf outing, with one company executive remarking that it was more fruitful for building relationships than rounds on a golf course. We are seeing an increasing number of corporate membership inquiries and applications, particularly in the Greater Tokyo Area.
While Sea-Style’s good reputation in part lies in how it provides an answer for people seeking easier access to boating and marine recreation, other reasons for its success as a program lie with the traits Yamaha has a manufacturer. One is its partnership with a sales network constantly working to create more marine recreation enthusiasts. The Yamaha marine product dealers and marinas around the country comprising this network have excellent personnel and facilities, and are enlisted as Sea-Style-affiliated dealers to offer a full line of services.
Another aspect is Yamaha’s more than 50 years of knowhow and experience in promoting safety. One example is producing and showing helpful videos in the boating, docking and departure classes mentioned earlier or prior to leaving port for practice. Yamaha reflects on and devises other creative ways to help beginners relieve their fears, build their confidence and enjoy boating with peace of mind.
Opening the Door to the Boating Life
A standard Sea-Style membership or buying your own boat naturally requires a boat operator’s license. In Japan, the number of new licensees each year hovers at about 56,000 people and there are currently four license types: Class 1, Class 2, Inland Water and Special Small-craft (i.e., personal watercraft). The type needed depends on where the boat will be operated, how far off shore you want to go, the type of boat, etc.
Since 1971, Yamaha Boat License Courses have been conducted primarily at Yamaha boat dealerships nationwide to help grow the boating population. More recently, Yamaha set up a system for license applications on the internet and developed a smartphone app for license seekers to study online with. The app was originally only for the base Class 2 license, but the number of users has grown each year thanks to the convenience and discounted pricing it offers, so plans call for Class 1 and Special Small-craft license courses to be added from 2019.
The Yamaha Boat License Courses started in 1971, the same year small-boat operator licenses were introduced in Japan. To date, more than 1.1 million people have gotten their license through the program.
Furthermore, the Sea-Style Light membership for individuals—like the corporate version—lets people without boat licenses rent boats with skippers at some 20 marinas around the country. And as an incentive, the license course and the standard Sea-Style membership entry fees are discounted with Sea-Style Light (within the first two years) to encourage people to acquire their own license and make the step up to full membership.
Going forward, Yamaha’s marine business will evolve toward growing the “value” of the seas through marine recreation while providing opportunities for more people to experience and enjoy boating. As a program that performs both, we will strive to bring ever more attractive craft and services to Sea-Style in the future.
Fun on the Water with Sea-Style
A collection of short
videos (in Japanese only) to illustrate
what’s possible with Sea-Style membership
Message from the Editor
Even scenery familiar to you can sometimes look entirely different when seen from a boat out on the water. And much like motorcycles, you get the same great feeling of wind on your face.
As part of expanding Sea-Style’s range of options and boats to choose from, we’ve newly introduced the Sea-Style Charter membership plan so that those without boating licenses can still enjoy time on the water. Also, the new Sea-Style Premium membership that begins in April allows chartering of the luxurious EXULT 36 Sport Saloon for those looking for an extra-special boating experience.
Mid-April is the perfect time of the year for a cruise on the bay, so I hope you find the opportunity to attend one of the Sea-Style introductory events held at marinas around Japan.