While countries like the UAE and Oman are not typically superyacht hubs, Abu Dhabi is a destination on many UHNW travelers' radars owing to the Formula 1. As a result, in the UAE, Yas Marina holds the majority share of the charter season around the Formula 1 and other sporting events.
“Abu Dhabi features a vast array of attractions and cultural activities that are unique to the region," explained Cedric Le Rest, general manager. "As well as being a vibrant and modern city with restaurants to suit every palate and award winning hotels, the capital also offers wildlife, many museums and iconic landmarks."
During the F1, Le Rest says that an increasing number of superyachts are coming from the Med or southeast Asia to Abu Dhabi for the week. "These superyachts tend to stay in the area for the winter and spend a few weeks in the Maldives before coming back to us and then leaving for their homeport in April or May,” he says.
Charter brokers based at Yas Marina include Captain Tony’s, Azure Charter and Safwa Marine. "They offer access to a variety of yachts ranging in size – all the way up to 60m, so we are more than capable of accommodating most guests needs,” Le Rest explains.
The climate can be harsh in this region, the summer months being prohibitively hot, affecting the charter season.“We do have hot months in the summer but we are also lucky to enjoy one of the longest peak seasons in the world," says Le Rest. "We have eight months of weather that are perfect and very comfortable for cruising.”
"It is a strange charter market in Abu Dhabi and Dubai," a regular charterer based in London tells us. "It is very seasonal, the local boats out there tend to be designed to stay in one place a bit more rather than charter and cruise, which is a different type of charter to what many Western clients would be looking for. The prices out there can be crazy and to find the right big boats is often a challenge as it is either 100ft boats or 300ft boats. But I think that now there has been some development and the boat market might improve out there. We will see how it goes."
For Le Rest, the Dubai Yacht Show is also a good chance for superyachts visit the region. “Yachts that come from overseas tend to stay berthed in Dubai for the show and then head back to their home berth in the region,” he says, adding that “this region overall is certainly very equipped with state of the art marinas & world class services so the influx of yachts should not present too much of a challenge.”
Moving away from the larger more established areas, Wayne Shepherd, general manager of Mourjan Marinas, suggests that the Middle East "is more of a destination, as its not on the typical superyacht route" and that it is an emerging market in the superyacht industry. "Dubai and Oman were certainly very rich in their maritime culture, but that was in the pearling and the trading industry,” Sheperd says, but where the recreational market is concerned its still in its infancy, with majority of activity in the smaller size end of the market.
“Abu Dhabi is all set up – the facilities are fantastic and they are ready for superyachts, they have clearly directed the market there,” Sheperd tells us, saying that in contrast, Dubai has a number of marinas that cater to smaller yachts. "The larger superyachts are still anchoring just off palm Jumeirah," he says, later stipulating that there is an increase of superyacht berths being installed in the region, which has positive indications. "I think there are still some commercial wharfs there, but at the end of the day they can still go and service them even if they don’t have direct contact with the shore,” he says. He also comment that recently there has been an increase of superyacht berths being installed.
Looking further afield to Oman, Sheperd describes this smaller nation as "gearing up" for the industry. "But I don’t believe it will be for the large superyacht market other than for use of commercial wharfs,” he says.
The growth in the region surrounding recent superyacht regulations, the new UAE code, an enlarging ownership pool and increasing order book however, is indicative of a region that could potentially see more and more activity in its waters, as the attraction of the middle east as a a UHNWI playground continues to grow. The Middle East undoubtedly is a region of great beauty and potential that for now, the more intrepid owner can make the most of.