Dubai emerges as global superyacht capital

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  • Dubai is now home to 15 marinas with more than 3,000 berths, which can accommodate an array of pleasure craft and luxury yachts as well as superyachts and gigayachts
  • More than 200 superyachts were registered across the Middle East as of 2019 with Dubai being the base for many of these vessels, says a report by Oxford Business Group

Dubai has made rapid progress to emerge as a preferred destination for yacht owners, charters and cruise travelers from across the world and a leading multi-faceted global hub for the sector.

With its world-class infrastructure, picturesque coastline, simplified access procedures, open anchorage areas, luxury marinas and diverse sea and land based experiences, Dubai has become a global yacht tourism magnet and the destination of choice for owners and captains of superyachts, especially in the winter season from October to April.

Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Council for Border Crossing Points Security, said the rapid growth of Dubai’s maritime tourism sector has contributed significantly to reinforcing the emirate’s status as one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations.

Following the launch of Dubai Harbour in 2020, and the expansion of several marinas across the emirate in the last 18 months, Dubai is now home to 15 marinas with more than 3,000 berths, which can accommodate an array of pleasure craft and luxury yachts as well as superyachts and gigayachts.

He called for further efforts to accelerate the pace of the sector’s growth and the development of its offerings, building on the successful start of Dubai’s cruise tourism season this year.

“Dubai’s leadership is committed to providing the world-class infrastructure, facilities and support necessary for maritime tourism to flourish in the emirate and for tourists to have a smooth, hassle-free and enriching experience. Dubai has a long and distinguished track record for providing exceptional services in this sector, which has made it a destination that is a favourite among both industry players and tourists worldwide,” he said

Under the directives of Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed, a cross-governmental task force was established to ensure that all foreign-flagged yachts, whether shipped or sailing to Dubai, have a seamless experience on arrival and benefit from full access to modern infrastructure and advanced marina based facilities.

Following the launch of Dubai Harbour in 2020, and the expansion of several marinas across the emirate in the last 18 months, Dubai is now home to 15 marinas with more than 3,000 berths, which can accommodate an array of pleasure craft and luxury yachts as well as superyachts and gigayachts.

Dubai is particularly attractive as a hub for superyachts, with its world-class facilities and sophisticated infrastructure, and plethora of fine-dining restaurants, diverse experiences and tourism attractions, all within easy access of the marinas.

According to Oxford Business Group, more than 200 superyachts (37 – 60m yachts) were registered across the Middle East as of 2019, with Dubai being the base for many of these vessels. The dock and dine options that are available at the marinas, in addition to its varied destination offerings, span many leisure touchpoints from heritage to entertainment, outdoor adventures to beach activities, gastronomy to family-oriented experiences, and from shopping to luxury.

With the impact of the pandemic continuing to influence new travel trends globally, residents and tourists are now seeking more private and closed-group activities. As a result, yachting has become increasingly popular with both tourists and residents alike, with owners and captains seeking to berth their vessels in marinas along Dubai’s coastline, such as the new Dubai Harbour.

Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, Executive Director of Dubai Maritime City Authority, said: “The Dubai Maritime City Authority is committed to promote Dubai’s position in the global maritime sector, by developing productive partnerships and innovative initiatives to elevate the leisure industry, create unique yacht tourism experiences and raise the sustainability of the sector in Dubai. In line with the futuristic vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we’re moving forward to advance marine leisure activities, tourist destinations, marinas, recreational places and yacht services to create a leading cluster for maritime activities in Dubai.”

Demand for yachting has grown increasingly over the past year with yacht operators reporting an increase in bookings across day and weekend trips and new luxury boats and equipment have been added to their fleet.

Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, commented: “We are seeing a rapid rise in yachting and cruising, two key offerings that support our tourism growth strategy in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to position the emirate as the most sought-after destination to visit as it continues to offer diverse tourism experiences as well as enhance its appeal as a global hub for businesses and an attractive location to live and work in. Dubai’s range of yacht tourism facilities that meet the highest international standards combined with its diverse destination proposition and commitment to prioritising the health and safety of people has enabled Dubai to build a thriving global yachting community and offer leisure and adventure activities featuring the most modern watercraft. Dubai’s ability to provide residents and tourists memorable maritime experiences is a testament to our strong collaboration with our stakeholders and partners.”

Hamza Mustafa, COO, P&O Marinas, said: “The UAE has a diversified economy with tourism as one of its core pillars. Capitalising on this, the country has established itself as an exclusive, luxury yachting destination. At P&O Marinas, through our collection of sought-after yachting and coastal destinations, our sole purpose is to develop and promote Dubai as a comprehensive maritime hub and a global destination for marine tourism. Our assemblage of marinas is one of the most comprehensive in the Middle East, with a total capacity of 1,200 wet berths, 600 dry berths, and an ability to accommodate 60 superyachts ranging between 25m and 160m. In addition to this, we are continually working to ensure that the Emirate remains the epicentre for yacht and superyacht owners.

“Moreover, as per a report from Research and Markets, the global yacht industry is projected to reach an estimated market value of $84.7 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.1 percent. This growth will certainly project on the superyacht industry. We have sought to enhance the growth of the industry through The International Superyacht Summit 2021 that aimed to foster collaboration in the sector locally and globally.

“Featuring world-class ports and superyacht berths with state-of-the-art facilities, the UAE has created the ideal conditions for the development of a thriving yacht tourism industry. Dubai offers attractive and competitive advantages including optimal berth spaces, dedicated support facilities and its strategic location along a beautiful coastline.”

Abdulla Binhabtoor, Chief Portfolio Management Officer of Dubai Harbour, commented: “Dubai Harbour is an extraordinary seafront district, set to further enhance Dubai’s standing as a world-class leisure destination. Dubai Harbour’s wide range of infrastructure and services have been carefully curated to deliver a premier, vibrant, and multifaceted marine experience. These include the Dubai Harbour Marinas – the region’s largest marinas – which can not only accommodate 700 berths but also offer the city’s first superyacht-dedicated marina that can house yachts up to 160m in length.”

“In addition, the new opening of the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal, a state-of-the-art facility spanning over 120,000m² and comprising two purpose-built terminal buildings, will play a major role in positioning Dubai as a fully integrated global yachting hub. Dubai Harbour reinforces Dubai’s positioning as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations and is set to play a major role in rekindling the city’s connection to the sea, providing more options and easier ways for people to experience a once-in-a-lifetime nautical experience.”

The growth potential of the UAE’s yachting industry is highlighted by the presence of world-class companies in the field such as Gulf Craft, manufacturers of luxury and superyachts and the opening up of more companies that are dedicated to promoting yacht tourism including The Yacht Brothers and Hero OdySEA. Demand for yachting has grown increasingly over the past year with yacht operators reporting an increase in bookings across day and weekend trips and new luxury boats and equipment have been added to their fleet.

Talal Nasralla, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf Craft, said: “With the yachting season in Dubai now in full swing, the UAE offers marine enthusiasts from all over the globe an unparalleled lifestyle experience. Thanks to the measures Dubai put in place to manage the effects of the global pandemic, and with attractions such as EXPO 2020, I think we can expect a very busy season ahead. There is so much the city has to offer visitors, from traditional Arabic culture and hospitality to incredible architecture, dining experiences and immaculate beaches. With Mina Rashid perfectly located in the heart of Dubai with capacity and facilities to cater for boats and yachts of all sizes, Dubai should be firmly on the itinerary for travellers looking for optimal weather and plenty to see and do.”

The offerings of companies in the sector include bespoke itineraries, superior amenities and water sports. The Yacht Brothers, for example, operate a wide range of yachts from 56ft – 165ft and offer tours and water experiences from 2-500 people. The world’s first BVLGARI Yacht Club features a 50-berth harbour that enables both superyachts and local boat owners to anchor in the bay free of charge. These attractions build on the range of more traditional water sports that are already being offered such as jet skiing, wakeboarding and diving.

Isa Hijris, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of The Yacht Brothers, said: “Our company is a family business run by two brothers, and we like to think that when you rent a yacht through us, we welcome you into our family. Not many businesses were formed during the pandemic, but we offered the people of Dubai an accessible, safe and luxurious domestic tourism option over the last 18 months. All our yachts are deep cleaned and sanitised between each trip to provide a secure environment for all our guests. As the world continues to open up, we are delighted to be able to bring a slice of the waterborne high life to customers from around the world via our hourly rental rates and an easy to navigate platform.”

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