Demonstrating a strong endorsement from leading political figures in the UAE, the 21st edition of Dubai International Boat Show was opened by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai. The show has fended off competition from the once popular Abu Dhabi Yacht Show to become the most important event in the region.

Held at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) from March 5-9, more than 780 exhibiting brands and companies participated in the show; 126 of these were new exhibitors. Over the five days 11 global and 20 regional launches took place, notably KaiserWerft’s launch of a 30m (99ft) yacht and Sanlorenzo’s launch of a 40m (131ft) yacht. UAE-based manufacturer Gulf Craft also revealed at the show that it had started the construction of a new Majesty 155 superyacht, which at 47m (155ft) will be the yard’s largest build to date.

The superyacht community benefitted from the cohesion of the newly established ‘Super Yacht Experience’, organised by the Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss), which had exhibitors collected together in floating booths on the water. It was hoped that the move would encourage more footfall and most of the exhibitors SB spoke to were pleased with the development, and felt it had been successful, although some stands seemed busier than others.

The show had a laid back but busy feel with exhibition-goers showing a healthy amount of curiosity towards the various craft on show. SB was told that although many exhibitors had stayed away the last two years, there appeared to be a renewed enthusiasm for the show, with many returning. When asked, SB was given largely positive feedback to the show. Christina Fagioli of Mondo Marine revealed, “The quality of the potential clients is good. This investment is absolutely positive.” Meanwhile Julia Clas of KaiserWerft commented, “Dubai is one of the best shows. We’ve had lots of good quality clients through the stand.” At Fincantieri, one of the busiest stands of the Super Yacht Experience, Marco Francesco Mazzu commented, “The show has been in line with expectations. We’ve had a continuous flow of clients.”

Returning to exhibit after a two-year break, Russell Morris at Palmer Johnson observed, “We’ve had some good clients through with a lot of interest in the supersport.” Morris offered some insight into buying patterns in the UAE, “The trick is to get [a yacht of a certain brand] in the country and the rest follows.” Buyers in GCC countries are apparently more likely to invest in a yacht from a shipyard which benefits from a brand presence in the region.

Elsewhere, an unconvinced exhibitor of the Super Yacht Experience who had been disappointed with footfall said he would wait until the end of the week to decide whether to commit to another year. He considered that had his shipyard brought a yacht to the show his stand would have been significantly busier, “If you bring a large yacht here you will get more attention but it is not a pleasant journey, through the Gulf of Aden.”

A quieter, more slow paced environment than the Monaco or Fort Lauderdale shows, the event provided ample opportunities for unrushed meetings and quality networking, although with only one official party – on the opening night – perhaps some of the evenings could have been better exploited. With exhibitors staying in hotels across Dubai there was less of a social focal point for evening activities.

With Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman likely to earn more from the their oil between 2010 and 2014 than from the previous 15 years combined, the Dubai show seems to represent a wise investment and will undoubtedly come back stronger than ever next year.

Image: A busy pontoon at Dubai