Dubai: The 22nd edition of the Dubai International Boat Show opened on Tuesday.
Exhibitors said that they expect this year’s show to be stronger compared to the last few years as a result of the UAE’s recovering economy and the growth of waterfront developments. They said the sentiment in the market is positive, aided by Dubai’s winning bid to host the Expo 2020, a global exhibition that is expected to attract 25 million visitors.
“Since 2011, the market started to stabilise [after the impact of the 2008 economic downturn] and in 2012 and 2013, we saw signs of growth,” said Mohammed Alshaali, chairman of UAE-based boat manufacturer Gulf Craft.
Demand for superyachts and small to medium-sized boats is expected to grow further in the coming years, he said.
Echoing Alshaali’s views, Greg Stinner, CEO of UAE-based Art Marine, a yacht dealership and marina operator, said that he expects the local boating market to “bounce back in a much larger scale” this year.
The show attracted 750 brands companies. Of those, 30 per cent were from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and 70 per cent from across the globe.
On display were 430 boats, valued at Dh1.8 billion, with 42 global and regional premiers.
Among the global launches is the Dh2.5 million Majesty 48 by Gulf Craft. The yacht is tragetted at families and is meant to be affordable, according to Alshaali. The company brought seven new yachts at the show.
Gulf Craft’s sales are likely to grow by 15 per cent this year compared to 2013, according to Alshaali. The comany’s share in the GCC market is expected to stand between 25 and 30 per cent. According to Alshaali, 70 per cent of Gulf Craft’s buyers come from the GCC and 30 per cent come from countries across the globe.
It expects to launch the Majesty 155, its largest build, worth Dh80 million, at next year’s show. The company’s boats are built to order as it focuses on quality rather than quantity, he said.
Meanwhile, the regional launches included Sunseeker’s 80-foot 80 Sport Yacht, valued at Dh23 million.
Gulf buyers account for at least 10 per cent of the UK-based company’s customers, according to James Hall, superyacht sales manager at Sunseeker. He said that Arab buyers are looking for “luxury,” which he explained as having a good quality, and a well-known brand.
Meanwhile, Art Marine displayed the 68-foot 68’ Ego Super, its largest yacht at the show, valued at 3.6 million euros, according to Stinner. He said that he expects his company’s sales at the show to reach $26 million (excluding mega-yachts).
There were 19 superyachts at the show, the largest being the 88.5 metre superyacht Nirvana, which features six decks, two helipads, a stage for live performances and a cinema.
Other regional launches include the 13.5-metre Cranchi, an 11-metre boat from Christ Craft, the 12-metre Everglade by Gulf Yachts and the 8.9 metre Qs855 Activ from Delma Marine.
This year the show has a UAE pavilion, showcasing nine boats, including a Dubai Police boat. The boats cost up to Dh130,000.
The UAE is trying to position itself as a leading manufacturer of boats, according to Saeed Hareb, vice president of the Dubai International Marine Club. There are 25 boat manufacturers in the UAE, he said.
The UAE is ranked ninth among the world’s top ten yacht-building countries, according to ShowBoats International Global Order Book 2014, an annual report by Boat International.
Visitors can expect to see technology solutions that can be used for their boats at the show. Raymarine exhibited touch-screen based navigation and control systems for mega-yachts that can help customers operate their yachts more safely and efficiently.
“Making [technology] available to boat owners of all types is what will really expand the market for private boat ownership and yachting in the region,” said Jimmy Grewal, executive director of Elcome International.
The show will run between March 4 and 8 at the Dubai International Marine Club. It is open for trade visitors and the public between 3pm and 9.30pm, with an entry fee of Dh60.