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Boating drives growth in the Middle East


In the area, the United Arab Emirates is a prominent country, where the maritime industry has a global value of about $24.5B, and recreational boating will be worth more than $1.2B by 2025.

The maritime sector is among the industrial areas playing a leading role in the Middle East’s economic growth. Jobs in this segment are increasing, as well as cooperation with various industrial areas, such as shipbuilding and maintenance, offshore exploration, logistics, and the manufacture of coastal facilities such as ports and marinas. The Middle East has vast coastal areas, access to extremely strategic sea routes that serve as a link between East and West, and abundant natural resources, such as oil and precious minerals. All of this has helped make this geographic region a vibrant maritime hub, distinguishing itself significantly in the industry. In the Middle East area, an extremely relevant country in the nautical field is the United Arab Emirates. The maritime industry in the UAE has a global value of about $24.5B and contributes 6% to GDP growth. This segment also includes recreational boating, an area that experts say will be worth more than $1.2B by 2025.

New Buyers Recreational boating is attracting a wave of new buyers, on average 15 years younger than buyers 20 years ago. They are generally people attracted to boating who do not have boaters in their families. Many of these people – some from abroad – have moved to the Dubai area in the past two years and approached recreational boating appreciating the available port facilities and favorable weather conditions. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the UAE welcomes 8.08M tourists each year, attracted by the desire to try new and authentic experiences. In this context, boating is among the most popular recreational activities, followed by diving and water sports.

Boating Infrastructure The importance of boating in the UAE has led to significant investment in infrastructure. While new housing developments can contribute to the growth of the industry by enhancing the vast unexplored areas along the coast, investments are also being made in maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure to improve its usability and help meet the needs of a rapidly expanding industry segment. An example of this trend is Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port, which will be able to accommodate extremely high volumes of maritime traffic. In the yachting sector, mention should be made of Dubai Harbour, the largest superyacht marina in the Middle East, which has now also become the new home of the Dubai International Boat Show. The UAE, like other Middle Eastern countries, has supported major reinvestment and infrastructure expansion initiatives to enhance the potential of the marine industry. Together with Bahrain and Oman, the UAE has also worked to loosen maritime permit legislation and simplify application processes. By eliminating bureaucracy and automating many activities related to the industry, faster turnaround times are provided that will be able to influence the lasting success of the boating economy and development in the region.

A strategic area for Italian exports
Since the UAE is a key market for the entire Gulf area, also the Italian marine industry sees exporting boats to this country as strategic. According to data from Confindustria Nautica, in 2021 exports of pleasure and sport boats from Italy to the UAE were worth about €39.1M. Among the major Italian companies exporting their boats to the UAE are those from the Adriatic district. The UAE ranks fifth among the countries to which exports are directed. Also for Lombard companies dedicated to the nautical sector, the UAE is among the most strategic countries to which exports are directed, as the Middle Eastern nation ranks 6th on the list.
Fostering the growth of recreational boating
Based in Dubai, the Leisure Marine Association Middle East North Africa (LMA MENA), aims to further the interests of the leisure marine industry. It promotes cooperation and communication between companies in the industry, supports training initiatives, and works on improving recreational boating industry standards and safety at sea. It also collaborates with governments, public authorities, companies, and associations on issues of interest to recreational boating. Recently the Leisure Marine Association announced that Abu Dhabi Marine, a major provider of marine services in the UAE, has joined the association as a Gold Sponsor. This partnership will enable both entities to work together to promote the growth of recreational boating in the UAE. Last May, Abu Dhabi Marine, together with the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport, worked to ensure free moorings and parking for UAE citizens in the Al Dhafra region.