Built on pearls, oil, and sand, the UAE is a vibrant collage of centuries-old traditions where luxury, seafaring, and demographic eclecticism remain unmatched. Here’s a look at how, in the age of COVID, The International Superyacht Summit aims to take the country’s maritime legacy into the future.
The Arabian Gulf has had its finger on the pulse of the proverbial “world” since the twelfth century. Narratives of travel and trade linking Eurasia, South and South-East Asia and China, have long captured the imagination of geographers from al-Idrīsī to Aḥmad ibn Mājid. They still do today. Fast forward to Dubai’s iconic petro-urban-cum-real estate/tourism boom of the 1970s to 2000s, and you’ll find connections in tech, finance, and transport remarkably similar to the past.
But now, a new perspective on the city/sea relationship has the UAE’s nautical community taking giant steps to build on its legacy in their own way, signaling a sea change throughout the superyacht cruising circuit. This may be the reason The International Superyacht Summit is becoming a movement of its own.
Martin Redmayne, Moderator at ISS 2019. Chairman, The Superyacht Group. Image: ISS
In 2018, Dr. Fabiana Maccarini and Captain Tony Crabbe founded the International Superyacht Summit to bring the “Emirati Riviera” into focus. They’d realized that Dubai, as Capt. Crabbe puts it, wasn’t “capitalizing on its potential as a superyacht hub and also as a link between East and West for superyachts.” So, in partnership with DP World and P&O Marinas, Fabulous Yachts became the primary organizer of the Summit.
The Summit’s inaugural gathering brought together UAE heavyweights like H.E. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO and Group Chairman of DP World; H.E. Jamal Al-Hai, Deputy Chairman of Dubai Airports; and Mohammed Al Mannaei, CEO of P&O Marinas and Executive Director of Mina Rashid, to explore the challenges and opportunities for making the UAE a superyacht hub and preferred winter destination.
Gulf Craft’s Majesty 175, the world’s largest composite superyacht. Image: Gulf Craft Inc.
Moderated by Martin Redmayne, Chairman of The Superyacht Group, the 2019 edition of the Summit upped the ante with the likes of Abeer Al Sha’ali, now CEO of Gulf Craft Inc.; Capt. Saif Al Mheiri, Director of Abu Dhabi Waterways; and Alessandro Tricoli, Partner & Head of Shipping for Fichte & Co, signaling greater participation from local UAE authorities.
Key outcomes centered on how best to pave the way for smoother access to UAE waters for superyacht owners, crews, marina developers, and operators throughout the marine supply chain.
Majesty 120, Dubai Harbor. Image: Gulf Craft Inc.
Here’s why that’s important…
First, according to Wealth-X’s Global Luxury Outlook 2020, Riyad and Abu Dhabi are 2 of the top 10 cities with high levels of affinity for luxury. The richest 1% own half the UAE’s wealth; and, at last count, the UAE is home to 24 billionaires.
“People want the privacy, people want the excusivity of boating as a heaven … nobody thought that was gonna happen.” -Abeer Al Sha’ali
A high affinity for luxury refers to cities where those in the upper tier of the ultra-high net worth spectrum (UHNW) with 100m+ own “major” luxury assets: superyachts, private jets, and/or substantial art collections. Yacht owners show the highest average net worth.
Abeer Al Sha’ali, CEO of Gulf Craft Inc. Image: ISS.
Second, capitalizing on the UAE’s “natural environment” means more than highlighting geography, culture, and wealth as key drivers of growth; it also means offering personalized solutions connected to the passions, interests, and changing lifestyle preferences of UHNW prospects—look no further than the number of yacht owners living at sea as a way of riding out the COVID pandemic.
And finally, this year’s Summit (now postponed to some time in Q4 of 2021), will amplify the Gulf’s wider relationship to the industry as a point of engagement for discussions about marine infrastructure, sustainability, and “smart yachting” (think: cybersecurity and personal data).
What crystallizes is not simply an homage to Emirati leadership, but a path forward that allows Summit-goers to seek fresh approaches to superyacht life. Approaches that are as rich and dynamic as the UAE itself.
Majesty 175. Image: Gulf Craft Inc.
While you’re there, be on the lookout for stalwarts like Redmayne and Al Sha’ali. You’ll also hear from Olivier Blanchet, Head of Jet and Yacht Finance at BNP Paribas, and get an exclusive keynote from Alberto Galassi, CEO of Ferretti Group.
*At the time of recording this podcast, the Summit was previously scheduled for March 10th and 11th. The date has now been postponed until Q4 2021.