Middle East boating market struggles after recession

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The United Arab Emirates’ boat and yacht industry still hasn’t bounced back from the market crash that gripped the global economy five years ago.

Ross Gill, regional sales manager at Al Futtaim Marine, told the Gulf News the industry was recovering, but wasn’t experiencing growth like other sectors in the local economy.

“The housing markets are telling one story, but we’re not seeing the trends reflected in the boating manufacturing and services industry,” he told the publication.

Al Futtaim Marine is the exclusive dealer for Larson Boats in the UAE.

Sales of boats 80 to 120 feet are doing well, but the market is small, Gill said.

Owners of large luxury yachts make up a small market and are generally seen as less affected by economic constraints than consumers who buy 17- to 30-foot boats. The first sign of recovery will be when small-boat sales pick up, Gill said, because they are a larger part of the overall market.

Despite slow sales growth, the services industry is performing relatively well as owners focus on upgrading their boats rather than replacing them.

“People are fixing and painting their boats. They’re doing AV upgrades and adding new equipment,” Gill said.

UAE-based powerboat builder Al Marakeb has seen strong growth in recent years, recording a 75 percent increase in sales in 2012, compared with the previous year. The company attributes its sales growth partly to its footing in the international market.

Nour Al Sayyed, architect and head of design at Al Marakeb, said 40 percent of the builder’s sales come from outside the UAE.

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