x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Yas Marina adds berths and restaurants

Yas Marina is planning to add more berths to cope with demand for corporate entertainment at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The five-year-old Yas Marina has about 100 boats moored there from just 19 in 2011. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
The five-year-old Yas Marina has about 100 boats moored there from just 19 in 2011. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

Yas Marina is planning to add more berths to cope with demand for entertainment at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Yas is preparing to add between seven and 30 berths to the existing 175 by October, said Cedric Le Rest, the general manager of Yas Marina.

It comes as tourism chiefs seek to develop the city's marine offerings, which include Emirates Palace Marina, Al Bateen Marina and Al Bandar Marina.

"Our main focus will be gearing up Abu Dhabi to host the Volvo Ocean Race from mid-December 2014 to January 3, 2015, and working with both the UAE and international travel and tourism industry to maximise the New Year 2015 holiday," said Mohammed Al Dhaheri, the quality performance manager for strategy at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA).

Five-year-old Yas Marina, which has been operated and managed by the British company Camper and Nicholsons Marinas since 2011, has improved its occupancy levels over the past two years.

It now has about 100 boats moored there up from 19 in 2011. The aim is to increase occupancy from 69 per cent in the first quarter of the year to reach full occupancy next year.

The marina, which can host boats of between 8 metres and 150 metres, receives almost 90 per cent of its business from domestic users.

"The UAE is still not considered a winter destination and for super yachts," Mr Le Rest said. "It is still seen as a detour on the way to say the Seychelles." Super yachts, whether powered by sail or an engine, are more than 24 metres in length.

On Wednesday, the marina had 75 boats, including a former English mine sweeper, a 72-metre super yacht as well as dhows.

But Mr Le Rest said that with the new focus on the Volvo Ocean Race, things are set to change.

Abu Dhabi hosted the global race last January and generated 32,000 room nights from 124,000 visitors. The next hosted edition is expected to generate US$61 million, 30 per cent more than in 2012, and 36,000 room nights, according to TCA Abu Dhabi.

Among Yas Marina's efforts to boost its visibility and image, the facility is focusing on community engagement, customer services and berth rates that Mr Le Rest says are competitive within the UAE.

While sailing permits in the UAE waters are given for 21 days initially, they can be extended up to six months, and Mr Le Rest says Yas Marina has done that for some boats.

It is also positioning itself as a casual destination, a change from when it opened in 2009.

"Then people thought we were exclusive and they were right, the rates were high," he said. "Now the challenge is to change this perception: people can enjoy a nice meal in shorts and watch the sun go down." Among its efforts to achieve that, the facility is adding to the two restaurants already there with five more by October.

The yearly rates have stayed stable for the past two years, while the F1 track view rates for the week of the race have gone up by 10 to 15 per cent.

The rates for track-view berths start at Dh11,435 for 10 metre boats during the week of the F1 race, and annual rates start at Dh16,455 for 8 metre boats.

As TCA highlights the capital's marine offerings, the interest is also growing.

"Since the 2012 staging [of Volvo Ocean Race], four city sailing centres have applied for Royal Yacht Association accreditation, the industry benchmark for training, which lends significant credibility to our watersports offering," Mr Al Dhaheri said.