A passion for water sports led Parva "Birdie" Nakasai to establish the luxury yacht business Vanora Co, which offers underwater trips to explore Thailand's coral reefs.
A daughter of former commerce minister Porntiva Niparin (formerly Nakasai) and current Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Anucha Nakasai, Ms Parva hopes to cash in on a favourable opportunity in the country's recovering tourism sector as high season approaches, with the first service scheduled to launch in December.
"I decided to start this business based simply on my passion for both land and water sports, be it Muay Thai, horse riding, surfing, or scuba diving. In the end, I discovered that my greatest passion lies in water sports, especially diving. I see that turning my passion into a business is likely to lead to greater success, as pursuing a business aligned with one's passion tends to make achieving success easier," said Ms Parva, the creative director of Vanora.
"I consulted with my family about the matter, and they were fully supportive and ready to promote and assist me without forcing me to engage in the family business directly. In the real estate business that the family operates, my mother is still actively managing it, and I only need to learn from her."
A graduate of Chulalongkorn University who majored in economics, she said that once the family agreed, a company was established to invest in luxury yachts in the country. The firm, named Vanora, means "white wave".
Constructed from aluminium, the yacht is capable of navigating through water three times faster than traditional steel-built vessels. This results in quicker and more enjoyable journeys, allowing more time to relax and unwind at the destination than for typical travels.
Ms Parva said the market for this business is considered non-competitive, as it is viewed as a new option for presenting new products to consumers. It is the only luxury yacht in Thailand that caters to the complete sea and underwater relaxation experience. The yacht has 10 cabins accommodating up to 20 people, equipped with scuba diving gear, and offers services comparable to a 5-star hotel, including dining, rooms, and onboard recreational activities such as jacuzzis and swimming pools. It caters to high-end sea tourism and enthusiasts of deep-sea activities in the waters of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Unlike similar luxury yachts from other providers that primarily offer diving services abroad, this yacht exclusively serves customers within Thailand.
"We are targeting a different market from the existing ones, as conventional diving experiences typically rely on boat transportation, leading to a lack of convenience for deep-sea diving enthusiasts. Recognising this gap in the market, we see an opportunity. Unlike conventional diving experiences, Vanora yacht offers a luxury service with a focus on comfort and excellent customer service. The staff is well-trained in both service and safety aspects. Additionally, the business emphasises sustainability by using recycled materials such as trays, glasses, and shampoo bottles," Ms Parva said.
According to Ms Parva, the diving market is relatively vast as new divers emerge continually, which is currently a highly popular trend, especially among the younger generation. Importantly, diving businesses emerging during this time are considered well-timed opportunities, as they mark the opening of new ventures following the easing of the pandemic.
Thailand is recognised as a global tourist attraction and is prepared for diving activities, particularly exploring coral reefs, as marine areas had a chance to recover from overcrowding during the pandemic.
This break contributed to the beauty of the underwater world, earning global recognition, and drawing divers from around the world who are eager to explore, Ms Parva said.
"Thailand's tourism potential is well-equipped as the locals are known for their service-oriented nature, while cultural soft power holds significant sway. Additionally, the relatively low cost of living makes diving expenses highly affordable, further enhancing the readiness to attract international tourists for diving tourism in Thailand," said Ms Parva.
According to Ms Parva, the overall market value of this business in Thailand has been steadily growing. Even during the pandemic, various dive boats could still operate at full capacity, and there was an increased interest in outdoor activities amid the pandemic. Over the past two to three years, new dive boats have been introduced, and the sale of diving equipment and accessories has seen a significant uptick.
Over the last decade, the market value of the diving tourism sector in Thailand has grown from around 2 billion baht to the current figure of around 20 billion baht per year.
Ms Parva said the services provided by the Vanora yacht not only cater to the diving community but also offer charter services for leisure tourism. Plans are also afoot to expand routes to international waters.
In terms of marketing, she said the company has conducted both offline and online marketing both domestically and internationally. The company has promoted and sold dive trips in China and America, with plans to market in France, Singapore, and Germany in the coming year. "The response from Thai and international visitors has been highly positive, as it is considered a new and interesting option for sea tourism and deep-sea diving activities," she said.
According to Ms Parva, full-scale services are set to commence during this upcoming high season, starting in December. The initial routes will cover the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, catering to both Thai and international customers, with an average trip cost of around 60,000 to 70,000 baht for a 4-night, 5-day trip.
In terms of safety, the yacht was certified with the highest global safety standards by Lloyd Certified By Global Standard. All crew members have received training in first aid, CPR, automated external defibrillator usage, and disaster prevention to ensure safety, prevention, and response to emergency situations. The yacht has also obtained travel permits for global voyages.
According to Ms Parva, surveys have found a rapid increase in interest and diving licences among Thais, with the number of licensed deep-sea divers doubling from 400,000 before the pandemic to over 800,000 after. The numbers are expected to surpass 1 million soon, she said.
In addition, a significant influx of foreign tourists are interested in diving in Thailand because of its underwater scenery and renowned diving spots.