Luxury boats to take centre stage in Dubai

February 24, 2013 4:20 pm

Set to take place on March 5-9 in Dubai, the region’s largest boat show will showcase over 430 boats, including 19 superyachts, with a total price tag of more than Dhs1bn ($272m).

The event’s organisers say this year’s show will be the largest ever, with more than 750 companies and brands and tens of thousands of visitors and buyers expected to attend.

“This year’s impressive line-up of global and regional launches and the large increase in international participation, serves as a true barometer of the stability and strength of the regional maritime industry,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) and Director General of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing,

UAE’s luxury boat market on the upswing

The large number of high net worth individuals in the Middle East is clearly one factor that drives demand for luxury marine crafts in the region. The affluence of the region is highlighted by the fact that 60% of the world’s top 100 superyachts are owned by Middle East residents, organisers noted.

But the luxury boat industry is not immune to recessions, and the sector has had to recover from a slump in sales during the recent global economic downturn.

“There is a lot more interest in boat buying these days than there has been over the past few years,” said Erwin Bamps, chief operating officer of Gulf Craft. He contends that low consumer confidence, rather than lack of financing, remains the biggest factor holding potential customers back from purchasing a yacht. “It’s all linked to consumer confidence. In our discussions with clients we find ourselves (focusing more) on building that confidence rather than trying to sell a boat,” he said.

But Bamps believes that the strength of Dubai’s tourism market and the resurgence of its real estate sector are helping to rebuild consumer confidence in the emirate. “Where there is tourism there is boating, and where luxury spending is on the rise there is boating, so we are quite optimistic about the near future,” he said.

Another shift that has emerged in the luxury boat market is that customers are now more mature than they were four or five years ago, he claims. “There is still money, but customers are spending it more carefully,” he noted. “But that doesn’t hurt our business. It just means that for manufacturers like us that have a product with good underlying value, it’s a time to shine.”

Henk Erenstein, managing partner of VanDutch Marine, says vast majority of purchasers of yachts continue to be cash buyers. “Most of our customers are people that do not need financing to buy a boat. Two years ago we were starting to see an increase in financing, but the last few months all of our sales have been cash only,” he noted.

Part of the reason for this is that there are very few companies left who are able to give people money to buy a yacht, he contends. “The banks don’t work like that anymore. They want to do it in other ways,” he said.

If you happen to have any spare cash, Erenstein would be happy to sell you one of his company’s 40-foot yachts, which list for about 500,000 euros. Or for even bigger spenders, he’s unveiling a new 55-foot yacht at the Dubai boat show that will set you back 1.2 million euros. He proudly noted that that his firm has managed to sell eleven of these new boats, and that’s ‘before they’ve even been in the water’.