UAE-based boatbuilder Gulf Craft is calling on the region’s tourist boards and regulators to help promote the GCC as a premier yachting destination.

According to the 2014 World Ultra Wealth Report by Wealth-X and UBS, the Middle East is home to the world’s fastest-growing Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) population and wealth. Both have increased by around 13% year-on-year, nearly two times the global average, with a total combined wealth of more than US$995bn.

The same report shows that the region’s UHNW population is expected to grow by approximately 30% between 2014 and 2019 – from an ultra wealthy population of 5,975 to nearly 8,000.

“Not only is the region growing considerably in terms of collective wealth, but reports show this wealth is diversified, signifying a healthy economy and mitigating any risks associated with the rise and fall of oil prices,” Gulf Craft CEO Erwin Bamps said at the recent MARE Forum Monaco Yacht Summit in Monte Carlo. “More than one-fifth of UHNW wealth in the UAE comes from various industrial entities, reflecting the confidence that both investors and private companies have in the economy,” he said.

Several waterfront developments that are currently in the works also make the GCC a plausible destination. A number of projects are slated for completion in the coming years, including Dubai Maritime City and the Dubai Canal in the UAE, as well as Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City in Kuwait. The challenge, says Bamps, is making visitors aware of these locations.

“Unfortunately, many waterfront destinations remain unknown among the general public, and with more marinas coming up along the Gulf coast, it is important that we educate and entice yacht owners to keep the craft they love in the region,” Bamps said. “This is where we need the support of all stakeholders in the industry, from tourism boards to regulators.”

In the last 16 years, the number of cruise visitors to the UAE has increased remarkably – from 10,000 in 1998, to half a million in 2014. In addition, tourism is proving to be a key economic pillar in Dubai, posting 14% annual growth, compared with the global average of 9%, according to the United Arab Emirates 2013 Yearbook.

However, rigorous port procedures for travelling on water between countries still poses a challenge for GCC visitors as the yachting community continues to push for a Schengen-style system that would allow sea travellers to enter any of the six countries with a single visa.

“If we are to truly achieve our goals of making Dubai a tourism hub and reach the target of 25 million visitors, we need to work together to enhance the guest experience. This change is not an infrastructural change, it is a regulatory change, and is therefore possible,” said Bamps. “I do believe that with the guidance of our visionary leadership, GCC regulators can work closely together to help us extend a warm welcome to regional and global yacht owners.”

Founded in 1982, Gulf Craft builds around 300 luxury yachts and fibreglass boats from 27ft-155ft each year under the Majesty Yachts, Nomad Yachts, Oryx and Silvercraft brands. According to Showboats International’s 2014 Global Order Book, the company is among the top 10 superyacht builders worldwide.