Singapore & Abu Dhabi's Quest to Be Yacht Playgrounds


Robb Young | April 10, 2011

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At the recent Abu Dhabi Yacht Show

If September to October marks the key window of opportunity for major yacht players to debut their wares at established nautical exhibition hubs like Monaco, Cannes and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then the March-April period is fast becoming a second chance to show off and do some deal making.

Each of the BRIC countries now has a vibrant, growing yacht market with a local show to woo prospective buyers and partners. The China International Boat Show, the Moscow International Boat & Yacht Show, the Rio Boat Show and the Mumbai International Boat Show all take place at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, multi-sector luxury lifestyle fairs with nautical segments like Travelweek Sao Paulo and Hainan Rendez-Vous have only just packed up, offering further opportunities to bolster these emerging markets. Smaller expos like the Antibes Yacht Show in the Caribbean (now in its fifth year) have just cleared the docks while, in the Mediterranean, Venice’s Nauticshow Jesolo Venezia and Split’s Croatia Boat Show (both in their 13th edition) have just had their opening day ceremonies.

“ Most of the people in the industry think it’s just a matter of time before the Middle East takes off. We wouldn’t have set up a shipyard in Abu Dhabi if that weren’t the case. ”

What’s more, even newer events have been flexing their muscles in recent weeks, positioning themselves as regional hubs in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show, which only launched three years ago and the Singapore Yacht Show, whose inaugural edition took place just this weekend, are both catering exclusively to the superyacht segments of the market and have attracted several high-profile exhibitors already.

Although this year’s Abu Dhabi show was plagued by low exhibitor numbers and fewer deals because of the popular uprisings in neighbouring countries like Bahrain and in the wider Arab world, the long-term prospects of such a well-developed yachting centre in the region are good because of ongoing marina projects in several cities in the Gulf such as Muscat, Kuwait City, Doha and beyond. Synfo News quoted Christophe Gerke of DeBirs Yachts as saying, “The luxury yachting industry has seen a big difference recently but everything is looking pretty good for 2011. There are so many marina projects evolving, not only in the Red Sea but also in the Mediterranean, and it’s very exciting.”

As reported earlier by this author in LS, major seaside resort developments and marinas in the Red Sea are in the works from Aqaba in Jordan to Jazan and Jeddah on the western coast of Saudi Arabia to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Synfo’s report did cite a slightly more cautious stance by the likes of Pierre Baz, business development director at Abu Dhabi MAR who said, “We’ll have to wait to see how it evolves, but most of the people in the industry think it’s just a matter of time before this area takes off. We wouldn’t have set up a shipyard in Abu Dhabi, and have Abu Dhabi MAR working out of the Middle East, if that weren’t the case.”

The view from One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove where the Singapore Yacht Show bowed this weekend

Just as Abu Dhabi is situated perfectly to serve a large swath of the Middle East’s yacht buyers, Singapore finds itself at a natural geographic advantage to serve booming markets straddling the South China Sea to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west – not to mention sea lovers among the wealthy in Australasia due south.

According to Channel News Asia, the event was put together at a very short notice. Andy Treadwell, managing director of Informa Yacht Group which organises the show told the article’s author: “Three months is absolutely not enough time to organise a proper yacht show. But for lots of reasons to do with our stakeholders and our own take on the need to launch a show now means that we have done it and we are very pleased. Lots of interest and looking forward to a really fantastic show in 2012.”

Unlike Abu Dhabi which not only suffers from political unrest in the immediate vicinity but also a severe piracy problem around the Gulf of Aden, the consensus is that the Singapore event could find its feet much faster. Channel News Asia concurred: “it looks smooth sailing for this industry, with 81 unique super yacht visits to Singapore last year, a five-fold increase from 2006. And that is why this show is looking at doubling the number of boats to 25 for the 2012 edition.”