Dubai International Boat Show 2024: Displaying luxurious boats and superyachts
Taking place until March 3 at Dubai Harbour, the boat show is showcasing an extensive array of marine attractions from more than 1,000 different brands, including 400 new companies. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

Dubai: As the popularity of luxury boats and yachts rises, the region's ultra-wealthy, including enthusiasts from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, are in pursuit of larger vessels offering enhanced privacy and a distinctive 'majlis-style' seating arrangement on the main deck.

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Renowned shipyards such as Azimut and Sunseeker Gulf, who are participating in the Dubai International Boat Show, told Gulf News they are tailoring boats with robust Gulf specifications. And these boats feature an outside cooling system, advanced stabilisation for a seamless sea experience, and a 'majlis-style' seating configuration on the main deck for comfortable face-to-face interactions.

This year's boat show started in Dubai on Wednesday, February 28, featuring over 1,000 brands and 200-plus boats from internationally renowned shipyards. The boats displayed at the show have a combined value exceeding Dh2.5 billion.

Bigger the better

Bogdan Borascu, the Marketing Director of Ocean 360 – an integrated yachting company – said, “Regional yacht buyers, including those in the UAE, definitely want bigger yachts. Boats with larger volume. They want more privacy as well.”

The Middle East is currently home to 12.6 per cent of the world’s superyacht fleet, while the luxury yacht market is projected to grow in value from $306 million in 2022 to $481 million by 2028. And Dubai’s High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) population is projected to increase by 39 per cent by 2026.

Take the British luxury performance motor yacht brand Sunseeker, for example. The company has four boats displayed at the Boat Show – the 88 Yacht, Manhattan 68 Pacific edition, 65 Sport Yacht, and Manhattan 55. In addition, the boat maker has also brought the Sunseeker Superhawk 55 to display a little later at the show.

“The Superhawk 55 was launched at the Dusseldorf Boat Show last year. It is an exciting boat for us – the Superhawk is iconic within the Sunseeker family of products. But this is a modern take on a classic design where we've made the boat much wider to create the accommodation the clients are looking for today,” said Douglas Culverwell, Director of Distributor Development, Sunseeker International Ltd.

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For 30 editions, Dubai International Boat Show has traditionally served as a regional and international launchpad for the world’s most luxurious yachts. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

Gulf specifications

The boat focuses heavily on the outside space and has air conditioning in the cockpit area. "Every boat at the boat show has a Gulf specification on it. The heart of the Gulf specification is the air conditioning system," said Culverwell. The boats are designed with an enhanced air conditioning package tailored to the requirements of the regional market.

Another important aspect is the sociable saloon set-up on the main deck, facilitating social interactions with comfortable opposite-facing seating.

"When considering this market, as we have done with the boats we've built, people prioritise ensuring they are comfortable and that the boats are well-stabilised. Comfort is a significant emphasis, especially in the main saloon areas, which are designed to be spacious and open," said Culverwell.

“Additionally, our focus includes advanced stabilisation systems for a smooth seafaring experience, meeting the preferences of regional customers, achieved through fins or gyros underneath the boat,” he added.

Need for stability

Seakeeper – a leader in marine motion control technology – demonstrated innovations designed to ensure stability in the water by reducing boat roll and pitch at the boat show. Ryan Albers, Director of Sales and Support at Seakeeper Ride, said, “The most obnoxious part of boating is the rolling or the slam of the bow as the waves come. If you could eliminate 70-80 per cent of the violence occurring, it would make boating more pleasurable and keep you and your guests on the boat longer.”

Sunseeker is also investing massively in a new product – the Ocean 156 will be launching later this year. "The boat name is based on the gross tonnage of the boat. It is an 80-foot boat, but the volume is so large that we've denoted it as 156."

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46 new boat launches have been planned for this year’s event Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

UAE growth plans

European shipyards foresee substantial and sustainable growth potential for boating in the region. For example, Sunseeker Gulf – one of UK-based Sunseeker’s four master distributors worldwide - is opening a flagship store in Marsa Al Arab – Jumeirah Group's hotel and marina, which is expected to open in the first half of this year, said Culverwell.

That said, yacht brokerages and charter companies in the UAE are also experiencing a surge in growth, driven by increasing demand for short-term yacht charters. “We are seeing a growth in short-term charter services, especially in the UAE. It costs anything between Dh1,500 per hour to Dh15,000 per day to charter these ultra-luxury yachts,” said Borascu. “There is also a growing interest in pre-owned boats, especially among new buyers,” he added.