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Boating will rebound

Boating will rebound

There are few economic barometers cooler than yacht sales. After a busy Dubai International Boat Show, Erwin Bamps, COO of Gulf Craft, writes that the industry is all set to make a comeback.

March 9, 2011 12:11 by

While the shopping basket may be the index used for consumer confidence and market stability in some countries, in the Middle East the experts and analysts often look at the luxury goods market, gauging how consumers of all nationalities are spending – are they investing in bricks, bullion or boats?

The leisure yachting industry has enjoyed steady growth over the past 10 years in the region, starting with the increased interest in yacht ownership of all sizes by the ruling families – Middle East families account for six of the ten largest private yachts in the world – and buoyed up by the growth in the expatriate community, greater emphasis has been placed on waterfront communities and encouraging access to the water.

This interest in the water has spurned an entire marine industry, from mechanics to marinas, captains to charter, and enabled local boat builders to grow their product range and trade on an international scale.

As an industry, the marine leisure market has followed the international trend more closely than the regional economic climate; that is, it never crashed like the property market, but merely slowed growth. This obviously put great pressure on those builders and retailers (brokers) who had excess of product, causing company downsizing across the market – locally and internationally.

During the economic challenges of the past two years, those yacht manufacturers that continue to thrive have tended to concentrate on the change in market temperature to focus on internal restructuring, economising on its processes and ensuring a leaner and more coordinated business objective. The leisure yacht market is a very different place than it was a few years ago, on both the builder/seller and buyer/owner sides. The lean years have allowed the good companies to perform without as many ‘cowboys’, while yacht owners are looking more for a yacht as an investment in leisure, rather than a simple toy. It has certainly woken the market up.

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