In a world where the Mediterranean’s azure waters typically beckon superyachts like a siren’s call, an intriguing shift is unfurling on the horizon: Dubai is steadily carving out a place as a captivating alternative to the traditional yachting havens of the Caribbean.
The resounding success of the 2023 Dubai International Boat Show, hosted at the opulent Dubai Harbour, serves as a resounding testament to the growing allure. The Middle East’s hunger for yachting shows no sign of abating, and this fervor casts Dubai as a promising maritime destination.
Abdulla Binhabtoor, the Chief Portfolio Management Officer at Shamal Holding, the force behind the prestigious Dubai Harbour, shares in the excitement, “The event’s triumph is a tangible indicator that the yachting fervor in this region is on a continuous upward trajectory.”
As the Mediterranean season draws to a close, a customary exodus of vessels embarks on the transatlantic journey to spend winter nestled in the Caribbean’s embrace. Yet, a captivating paradigm shift is taking place as an increasing number of yachts are enticed to chart a new course, steering towards the Indian Ocean’s azure expanses. Alluring destinations like the Maldives and Seychelles have ignited this burgeoning trend, leading to a surge in “Arabian repositioning cruises,” with Dubai emerging as a prime beneficiary, a port of call for superyachts in the region.
Blueside Yachting, a stalwart presence covering not only Dubai and the GCC but also the Italian Riviera, Montecarlo, and Sardinia, has meticulously observed a consistent upward trajectory in the number of superyachts gracing Dubai’s waters over the past half-decade. Engaging with clients and operators has unveiled a remarkable surge, witnessing a leap from 67 to 130 yachts over 24 meters between 2019 and 2022. The ongoing year of 2023 appears poised to eclipse all previous records. This surge can be attributed to an array of factors, including an influx of Russian-owned vessels, yet the driving force remains a calculated strategy to court superyachts, a pivotal component of the burgeoning high-value business sector.
In a mere handful of decades, Dubai has evolved from a desert tableau into a towering metropolis gracing the shores, embracing opulent living, haute couture, and lavish hospitality. This transformation has been accompanied by a colossal investment, pouring billions into maritime infrastructure, with a grand vision of establishing Dubai as a premier global yachting haven.
Among Dubai’s most ambitious endeavors, the 2020 inception of Dubai Harbour stands out, now reigning as the Gulf’s largest marina, home to nearly 700 berths catering to yachts up to 160 meters in length. Nestled within is Dubai’s inaugural dedicated superyacht marina, boasting 104 berths for yachts up to 160 meters, complemented by a cutting-edge yacht club.
Dubai Harbour, under the stewardship of Shamal Holding, has orchestrated the transformation of the region into a burgeoning international yacht tourism nucleus.
The initial five months of 2023 saw a flurry of 33 superyachts gracing the marina, marking a staggering 22 percent surge from the preceding season. This surge is mirrored in the swelling average size of berthed superyachts, stretching from 38 to 55 meters LOA.
Today, Dubai boasts a constellation of 15 marinas, each narrating its own story. The canvas extends to over 3,000 superyacht berths, with an array of maritime infrastructural magnum opuses on the horizon. Among these, the standout is the $6.8 billion metamorphosis of Mina Rashid, blossoming into a waterfront residential community meticulously designed with yacht aficionados in mind. Set adrift in 2019, the marina will encompass 430 wet berths, tailored for yachts surpassing 100 meters. The ensemble also features a floating yacht club, signature hotels, a Venetian piazza, and a cornucopia of recreational amenities, crowned by Dubai’s sprawling azure swimming expanse.
This evolving narrative extends its tendrils into diverse spheres of Dubai’s economy, a fact most conspicuously echoed in the forthcoming Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab hotel. Completing the Jumeirah Group’s “Oceanic trilogy” of hotels, Marsa Al Arab is a symphony in design, evoking the essence of a superyacht on terra firma, complete with an 82-berth marina catering to yachts of every size.
In the words of the imminent luxury hotel management, “Dubai’s luxury hotels and resorts extend a gamut of services to yacht owners and visitors alike. With the influx of high-net-worth patrons, expectations transcend the ordinary; be it in hospitality, gastronomy, or haute couture retail experiences.”
Dubai’s yachting sector’s meteoric rise has understandably entranced industry stakeholders, all eyeing the city as a conduit to expand their global operations. In the past year alone, a multitude of international yacht operators have anchored their presence in the UAE. Concurrently, Dubai’s Al Seer Marine and P&O Marinas are poised to revolutionize the refit space by enlisting MB92 Group to inaugurate a world-class refit hub in the Gulf—the region’s maiden venture of its kind.
In the words of the Chief Operating Officer at P&O Marinas, a jewel in DP World’s array of world-class luxury marinas and picturesque harbors, “The UAE is the quintessential hub to serve the burgeoning cadre of superyacht aficionados in the Gulf region. Over the years, Dubai has painstakingly nurtured its reputation as the zenith of luxury yachting, adorning its skyline with an array of high-end marinas. With its unique hospitality offerings, bespoke service ethos, and iconic destinations, the Emirate is metamorphosing into a haven for global yachts seeking a taste of its hospitality. We’re scripting a new chapter in the industry, and this is just the opening verse.”
January 2023 ushered in renewed government support for Dubai’s burgeoning superyacht sector, materializing as fresh marine infrastructure investments and streamlined industry legislation. In addition to the unveiling of new facilities, foreign-flagged yachts will savor expedited procedures for charter permits, extended cruising licenses, and simplified immigration and customs clearances—a collective overture to bolster regional maritime traffic.