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.
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.