Every Year Industry’s Biggest Players Gather In Dubai For The Middle East Yachting Conference

The conference, seen throughout the regional maritime community as the prime meeting spot for the sector’s leaders and advocates, explores an array of topics impacting our shores, seas, and waterways.

The maritime industry’s most pressing issues were unpacked by some of the sector’s most prominent changemakers at the annual Middle East Yachting Conference, which annually acts as the forerunner for Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS), the Middle East’s largest maritime show

Opening the 2023 event, His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Hareb, Secretary General: Dubai Sports Council, and Adviser to the Dubai International Boat Show, described the conference as an important, unifying force that brings manufacturers, suppliers, and government authorities together to drive innovation and transformation. Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President – Events Management: Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of DIBS 2023, echoed His Excellency’s sentiments and said that the great coordination at the government level across the UAE is driving significant expansion across the leisure boating ecosystem. “Initiatives like the D33 Dubai Economic Agenda will play a transformative role in the leisure marine boating industry in the years to come. We will be building international bridges to a lot of events destination hubs as well, to make sure we increase the export and investment opportunities for all,” she said.

Tremendous Potential

In the first of the day’s in-depth panel discussions, (pictured centre) Abdulla Bin Habtoor, Chief Portfolio Officer of SHAMAL, the developers of Dubai Harbour, where DIBS took place this year, said the wide range of coastline projects taking place across the region are driving “tremendous” potential for the regional maritime industry. “Ever since we first started on the Dubai Harbour project back in 2016, our mission always revolved around how we could create an ecosystem that provided our residents and visitors with the marina lifestyle. Not only do we have a 700-berth marina, but we also have a dedicated super yacht marina,” he said. “We are really committed to rekindling the connection between residents and the sea.” Sustainability infused all discussions at the conference, which is echoed in the S.E.A (Sustainable Environmental Action) Mission taking place across the DIBS event including sustainable food options and solar-powered generators on site,

According to Francis Lapp, CEO of Sunreef Yachts, sustainability touches every part of the yachting industry. “Boat owners want to see everything from solar power and electric engines to eco-friendly materials being used in boat interiors, as well as alternative green fuels,” Lapp explained Millennials and Gen Z clients, in particular, are not just interested in concepts such as electric engines, but rather a completely sustainable lifestyle. Marinas today have to reflect this transformation and shift towards sustainability.”

Industry is Responsible

The shifting demographic of boat ownership also came under focus during conference discussions, along with the impact that these High Earners Not Yet Rich (HENRYs) are having on the industry. Paris Baloumis, Group Marketing & Brand Director at Oceanco, said the responsibility lies with the industry to attract the younger market to the yachting lifestyle. “From what we’ve seen, the younger generation is still focused on building their empires, and are not necessarily ready to engage in a four or five-year-build period. We as the industry can change this by showcasing the enjoyment of yachting, and highlighting that the experience doesn’t start when the yacht is delivered; it starts during the build process.”

As the yachting industry takes strides to lessen its ecological footprint and reach out to a younger audience, the importance of collaboration was emphasised by Abeer Al Shaali, Deputy Managing Director of Gulf Craft and Chairperson of Leisure Marine Association MENA, the key that will continue to unlock opportunities for further evolution across the industry. “While it can be challenging because different cities have different maritime authorities and different rules and regulations, you have to remember that everyone is working together as part of one ecosystem,” Al Shaali said. “It is very important to keep users at the heart of the experience and really understand their needs when creating a framework for the marine sector.”

Bringing in Wealth

“Yachting has certainly proven to be very robust,” said Yerin Hobson, CEO of Arrow Monaco, in a panel that explored whether inflation, rising costs of materials, sanctions and investment trends in the region could capsize the yachting industry. “We do have issues, for example in the regional and global supply chain, as well as when it comes to negotiating with shipyards to cover risk when it comes to inflation. But, I do not think the tipping point is approaching. History has proven that it’s up to us to ensure that yachting is still attractive and that we bring wealth into yachting.”

The Middle East Yachting Conference – sponsored by Oceanco, Arrow Monaco and My World of Yachts – was followed by the Dubai International Boat Show 2023, which ran from 1 – 5 March at Dubai Harbour and featured more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and brands from over 60 countries.

Dubai International Boat Show Highlights Local Marine Industry’s Global Appeal

The Middle East’s largest and most established leisure marine and lifestyle marine event, the Dubai International Boat Show 2023, recently concluded after attracting over 30,000 visitors and industry players from across the globe to the Dubai Harbour for five days of demonstrations, displays, seminars, launches and workshops.

The global boat-building market is expected to reach over $47 billion in 2027, at a CAGR of 7.5%, and the increasing demand for recreational boats in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a significant factor driving growth.

Brands in Dubai are responding with their latest designs and innovations, and local manufacturers and suppliers exhibited their latest innovations at the event.

Sustainable Solutions

Al Rubban Marine, IMG Boats, Invincible Boats, Ocean Boats, Gulf Craft and Victory Yachts are among the prominent exhibitors that showcased their latest creations at the five-day event, with a focus on incorporating sustainable solutions. As the global movement towards environmental sustainability continues to reshape the maritime sector and the future of yacht architecture, yacht owners and clients are increasingly interested in innovative technologies that can create a greener yacht.

Manufacturers such as Gulf Craft are responding to this demand by integrating sustainable solutions into their builds. Abeer Al Shaali, Deputy Managing Director of Gulf Craft, said: “At Gulf Craft, we understand that clients prioritise sustainability and durability, and we are committed to supporting the path towards a sustainable future. We are committed to making our yachts more efficient, lightweight, and practical, always with the user’s perspective in mind. Our latest yacht, the Majesty 111, showcases the latest trends in boat building, bringing the outside inside and creating a natural flow from exterior to interior. We believe that by incorporating nature and light into our designs, we are creating a truly unique and luxurious experience for our clients.”

With brands from 60 countries featured at the show, local manufacturers and distributors exhibiting reported increased business from a diverse range of international markets. Paurush Farouk.H, Sales Manager, IMG Boats commented that there is a strong market for Middle Eastern products outside the region: “In previous years, we primarily had interest from across the region, but this year we are receiving more serious leads from international markets, particularly Eastern Europe, and Australia,” he said.

Customisation is key

Brands also reported that customisation and personalisation are high on the list of customer demands this year, as buyers are keen to reflect their personality through their purchases. Shahid Ahmed Jiwrak, Sales Manager, Ocean Boats, said: “We observed that visitors were very impressed by the options for customisation that Ocean Boats offer. This is very important because customers today want highly personalised products. These can range from walk-around cabins, forward or backwards-facing seats, centre consoles, a roof on the top of the steering wheel, and even bathrooms on board the vessel. As designers, we listen to all these preferences and incorporate them in the final boat design in the most innovative way possible, so that the customer gets a boat that suits their specific needs.”

Proud legacy

Dubai International Boat Show brought together the latest innovations from a range of the industry’s verticals.

Historically playing a key role in the UAE’s maritime sector, the country’s Fish and Seafood Market has witnessed significant growth and development in recent years. Local fishing equipment companies brought the latest advancements in rods, lures, tackles and other fishing gear to the show, and Taha Darwish, Sales & Marketing Manager, Helal Trading, wholesale distributor of Okuma throughout the Middle East said that they observed a lot of interest from regional and international retailers for next-generation reels and drags that can handle larger fish. “New equipment is lighter than before, making it easier to catch big fish like tuna which can go up to 100kg. It was our first time exhibiting at the Dubai International Boat Show, and we had many requests for these and other equipment,” he said.

For local boat manufacturers and equipment suppliers that exhibited at Dubai International Boat Show 2023, the event played an essential role in providing a platform for the industry to present its excellence to the international market. Its almost 30-year legacy can be credited with attracting yacht companies to move their headquarters to the UAE or have permanent offices here, added Abdulaziz AlMeraikhi, Owner & Founder of Ultra Marine, a distributor of Invincible Boats.

As the Dubai International Boat Show annually continues to champion the UAE’s position as a top destination for marine enthusiasts and professionals, the show undoubtedly remains the premier venue for local players to display and celebrate their innovations and advancements.

The Dubai International Boat Show 2023 ran from 1 – 5 March.