ABU DHABI // If the success of an upmarket boat show is measured by the royal head count, then the inaugural Abu Dhabi Yacht Show scored highly.
Qatari, Emirati and Kuwaiti royals joined more than 3,000 dignitaries and boating enthusiasts to see some of the world's finest yachts. The three-day boat fair drew to a close last night with all the glitz expected of the show's more established counterparts in Monaco and Cannes. The 20 gleaming showpiece yachts, some more than three storeys high and with a combined value of more than US$500 million (Dh1.8bn), looked the epitome of chic as they rocked gently in the city's Maqta Channel.
Berthed at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre's new Marina Zone, the immaculately polished exteriors and dazzling chrome impressed the crowds and provided a glimpse of the life of the super elite. Boat brokers and organisers said the show was a success and that they were looking forward to building on it next year. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited the event and a Qatari royal made a private tour of the exhibition.
"This show demonstrates Abu Dhabi's commitment to be recognised as a global super-yacht player at the same level as leading centres in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean," Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement. "We are convinced that by staging the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show, the emirate is embarking on what will prove to be a highly successful international marketing drive aimed at building awareness of the UAE capital's potential as a super-yacht hub."
"It has been a success, especially considering it was the inaugural show," said Iain Lawrie, a managing broker at Art Marine, the largest yacht dealer in the Middle East, which brought six boats to the fair. "We have had some very promising inquiries from people at the show but most of the sales are fully confirmed a couple of days after the event has ended." He said he was in "very serious" and advanced negotiations with one Indian buyer who attended the show over the purchase of a 25- to 30-metre yacht for around US$10 million.
"I am very satisfied with the way things have gone. As with any show, you have to wait for the dust to settle to see exactly where you are in terms of sales. "We have had members of royal families from different countries here; royal families from Kuwait, Qatar and of course Abu Dhabi. "It has been attended by a very high pedigree of yachts and out of the people who are attending the show, a large proportion of them are high net worth people; the kind of people who buy these kind of luxury yachts."
Luxury was certainly the word; price tags ranged from around US$10 million for a 30-metre sports cruiser such as the Paprika through to US$100 million for the 85-metre Alysia. That ship boasts a helipad, gym, sauna, steam rooms and swimming pool. Berthed next to the Alysia was the 89-metre Lauren L, which includes all the features of its neighbouring vessel, plus a massage room, hydrotherapy spa, hairdressing salon and cocktail lounge complete with grand piano.
"These boats are very special," said Charles Dence, from the brokerage firm Burgess. "Really they are more like floating villas than boats. "If you are going to spend upwards of 50 million euros (Dh240m) on a boat then you really want it to have everything. People want a palace." Some yachts are bought by individuals while others are bought by companies that make up to US$500,000 dollars a week chartering a US$70 million yacht to holidaymakers.
The show aims to launch Abu Dhabi as an international super-yacht destination for the world's elite. Erwin Bamps, the executive manager of Gulf Crafts, one of the UAE's largest ship builders, said Abu Dhabi would have to work hard to achieve the same fame as other boat shows. "It takes time to establish yourself on the international scene but I have no doubt Abu Dhabi will achieve it. The city is already associated with luxury and prestige projects. It is just a question of focusing on the yacht sector.
"Abu Dhabi does not yet have the restaurants and nightlife of Monaco and Cannes but they are working to create these in parallel with developing the show. "The pace of development here is incredible. It will not take long." Mr Lawrie added: "The show is being taken seriously by the industry and this is obvious because all the main industry brokers are here as well as all the reputable boat builders from across the world."