The Westin Hotel in Mina Seyahi was the venue for the 1st Middle East Yachting Conference, an initiative by the Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS) to add value to the show’s growing profile with the superyacht industry. Held on the eve of the show, the speaker list included high-profile local figures from the industry.

A presentation by Saeed Hareb, secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council and senior advisor to the boat show, outlined how far Dubai has progressed in the development of leisure boating in the Emirate.

He highlighted the vision from over 40 years ago of the ruling Maktoum family in developing a harbour for tourism use – Mina Seyahi (or 'Harbour for Tourists' in English), which is now the current site of the Dubai International Boat Show.

A presentation by Nawfal Al-Jourani from Dubai Maritime City showed how the Emirate is progressing with establishing rules and regulations for leisure boating and engaging with the industry locally to develop them.

Al-Jourani stated: “It is now obligatory from the 1st of January this year for all leisure boat captains to have a driving licence,” adding that 1,500 have been issued so far.

Dubai Maritime City is involved with both the leisure and commercial marine sectors in Dubai with the aim of establishing Dubai as an international centre of marine excellence. According to Al-Jourani: “The maritime commercial and leisure industry in Dubai is responsible for 4.6% of the GDP and employs 75,000 people.”

Other presentations included Matthew Chatt-Collins from Andrew Winch Designs talking about superyacht design innovation. Emanuel Delarue from the NDA Group in China then presented views on releasing the true potential of marinas as lifestyle destinations, saying: “Now marina developers in Asia and the Middle East have moved from just providing berthing to making the marina an integral lifestyle platform for boaters.”

The last session, moderated by Nabil Farhat, editor of the Arabic World of Yachts and Boats magazine, was a panel discussion called ‘Why is the Middle East so important for superyacht builders’, which involved Paris Baloumis, marketing manager from Oceanco, and Farouk Nefzi, marketing director of Feadship.

According to Thomas Deoliveira, director of the Dubai International Boat Show, the Middle East Yachting Conference is planned to be a regular event alongside the boat show.