ABU DHABI // For visitors, the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show was a spectacle. A fleet of sleek and opulent vessels to make the mouth water and the imagination reel. There was even a final-day coda of lightning and rain over Yas Island Marina last night.
"This is a fantastic setting," said Ameera Albraiki, an Abu Dhabi resident. "These boats are beautiful." For brokers and shipyards, however, the show was not quite the same success. Potential buyers were thin on the ground. "Very disappointing, in terms of turnout of clients," said Jonathan Beckett of London-based Burgess Yachts. He said the number of serious visitors was low, especially given the calibre of the exhibitors.
The sale of boats can be crucial to the future of a prestige show such as this one. An industry rule of thumb is that to bring a 40-metre yacht such as "Blink", being shown by Burgess, on a yacht-carrier from the Mediterranean costs more than US$200,000 (Dh735,000), while bringing a large yacht from Florida under its own power, a trip of up to 40 days, could cost $500,000. "People will think very hard about bringing a yacht to a show if they think they will have to take it back again afterwards," said Mr Beckett. "Especially these days because we are still in difficult economic times."
An important factor in Abu Dhabi's favour is its potential to become a base for yachts doing the Indian Ocean charter season. That will only improve, given the investment being made in marina infrastructure and services, by Aldar especially. Among the vessels that commanded attention were the Vitruvius series of motor yachts from Perini Navi, the Italian builder; the fashion-yachting collaboration between Monaco-based Wally Yachts and Hermés, a severely triangular vessel which was as much floating private island as motor yacht; and the Linda Lou, a 60m yacht from the German shipyard Lürrsen which was designed by Espen Oino with opulent interiors by Franco Zuretti.
Some who attended the show mentioned that it was difficult to navigate the grounds. The director of a leading shipyard said it was "commercially disastrous" not to have the exhibition stands near the boats, as is commonly done. Clearly, it is early days for Abu Dhabi's yacht show and, as Cyril Le Sourd, of Abu Dhabi MAR, pointed out: "It is so new and completely different from anywhere else. It just hasn't found its proper location and organisation yet."