Concentrated efforts to transform Dubai into a preferred destination for yacht owners, ship charters and cruise passengers are paying off, with the emirate gearing up for a bumper season.
The emirate’s world-class infrastructure, picturesque coastline, simplified access procedures, open anchorage areas, luxury marinas and diverse sea and land-based experiences have all combined to establish Dubai as a global hub for nautical tourism. The pandemic has also played a part in fuelling the industry, as residents and tourists seek out more private and closed-group activities.
“We are seeing a rapid rise in yachting and cruising, two key offerings that support our tourism growth strategy in line with the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,” says Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
“Dubai’s range of yacht tourism facilities that meet the highest international standards, combined with its diverse destination proposition and commitment to prioritising the health and safety of people, has enabled Dubai to build a thriving global yachting community and offer leisure and adventure activities featuring the most modern watercraft.”
Central to this growth has been the development of appropriate infrastructure. Following the launch of Dubai Harbour in 2020 and the expansion of several marinas across the emirate in the past 18 months, Dubai is now home to 15 marinas with more than 3,000 berths. These facilities can accommodate a range of pleasure craft and luxury yachts, including superyachts and gigayachts.
Dubai Harbour Marinas – the region’s largest – can accommodate 700 berths and also offer the city’s first marina dedicated to superyachts, which can house boats up to 160 metres in length. The world’s first Bulgari Yacht Club offers a 50-berth harbour where superyachts can anchor in the bay free of charge.
According to the Oxford Business Group, more than 200 superyachts (those measuring between 37 metres and 60 metres) were registered across the Middle East as of 2019, with Dubai being the base for many of these vessels. Dubai’s diverse attractions, from its fine-dining restaurants and luxury shopping outlets to its beach facilities and family-oriented experiences, are acting as an added draw for superyacht owners.
"At P&O Marinas, through our collection of sought-after yachting and coastal destinations, our sole purpose is to develop and promote Dubai as a comprehensive maritime hub and a global destination for marine tourism,” says Hamza Mustafa, chief operating officer, P&O Marinas.
“Our assemblage of marinas is one of the most comprehensive in the Middle East, with a total capacity of 1,200 wet berths, 600 dry berths, and an ability to accommodate 60 superyachts ranging between 25 metres and 160 metres. In addition to this, we are continually working to ensure that the emirate remains the epicentre for yacht and superyacht owners."
Also appealing to superyacht owners are the seamless services offered by authorities in Dubai. Under the directives of Sheikh Mansoor Al Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Council for Border Crossing Points Security, a cross-governmental task force was established to ensure that all foreign-flagged yachts, whether shipped or sailing to Dubai, have a smooth experience on arrival and benefit from full access to advanced marina-based facilities.
“Dubai’s leadership is committed to providing the world-class infrastructure, facilities and support necessary for maritime tourism to flourish in the emirate and for tourists to have a smooth, hassle-free and enriching experience,” says Sheikh Mansoor.
Combined, these various attributes are creating plenty of opportunities in this niche segment of the industry. The Yacht Brothers, for example, was established during the pandemic, and operates a wide range of vessels, from 17 metres to 50 metres.
“Not many businesses were formed during the pandemic, but we offered the people of Dubai an accessible, safe and luxurious domestic tourism option over the last 18 months,” says Isa Hijris, chief executive and co-founder of The Yacht Brothers.
“All our yachts are deep cleaned and sanitised between each trip to provide a secure environment for all our guests. As the world continues to open up, we are delighted to be able to bring a slice of the waterborne high life to customers from around the world via our hourly rental rates and an easy-to-navigate platform.”