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2021 May June Marina World

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The magazine for the marina industry

MARKET UPDATE Effective

MARKET UPDATE Effective master planning in Joe Goddard Most wealthy Saudis keep their super and mega yachts in the Mediterranean where they can socialise and be part of the world’s centre of boating exclusivity. But what is happening in the Kingdom - and who else goes boating? Joe Goddard gives an update There are big plans for Saudi Arabia, with new marinas and tourism infrastructure. The new projects are part of the Saudi Vision 2030, backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Apart from the size and grandeur of the projects, they turn the notion that Saudi will remain a strict religious and old fashioned Muslim country on its head. The Crown Prince’s marketing of the new projects is very glossy, it is grandiose, and everyone is very excited. The new Amaala Project – key to the new ‘Vision’ – sits “at the heart of the Riviera of the Middle East.” Located only 300nm from the Mediterranean on the north western end of Saudi, Amaala is audacious. It will add enormous benefits for tourism and residents alike. Triple Bay in Amaala will provide secure berthing for more than 300 yachts of up to 140m (460ft) in length while blending the all-important environmental attributes and planning for Mediterranean style international yachting regattas. Saudi Arabia is marketing similar giga projects like the Qiddiya Entertainment City, NEOM and the Red Sea Project, in Above: The Amaala Project, key to Saudi Vision 2030, is an audacious centrepiece. Right: Jet skis are an integral part of boating culture in the Obhur Creek, just north of Jeddah. part so that it can attract the millennial generation who want more social and cultural diversification than the country currently offers. Regional influence Similar approach and action was adopted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai two decades ago. In those days, the marketing went as far as saying there would be 40,000 marina berths in the GCC within a few years, which was of course a pipe dream. Arguably, one of the marina success stories in Dubai was developer Emaar Properties. Emaar’s chairman, Mohamed Alabbar, had the vision and fortitude to dig out a 4km (2.5mi) waterway quite a distance from the city centre and build what is now a very successful marina precinct with over 800 berths spread across four marina basins. The concept and master plan were revolutionary for the region. Dubai Marina now features a carnival style waterfront atmosphere, with charter boats, restaurants, sky diving, wide promenades, bicycle paths, open space and accommodation. At the same time, the government’s own developer Nakheel Properties took a chance and built Palm Jumeirah - the now famous reclaimed island that looks like a palm tree from space. The Palm Island features 500 marina berths which are now at full occupancy. A marina is a success when it fulfils all the necessary requirements and there is a plethora of marinas worldwide that haven’t got the right formula. There are examples of these, not only in the Middle East, but also in mainland China where insufficient work went into the master planning combined with an overly optimistic vision of increased boat sales and marina berth demand. Marinas in Saudi Apart from the Saudi elite who own a few super and mega yachts, there are thousands of people who just enjoy boating on smaller craft, and the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea is the founding parent of the marina and boating industry within the Kingdom. There is an abundant boating culture in the Obhur Creek, just north of Jeddah and many use the waterways and the marinas. The youth zoom around on their jet skis and families cruise the creek aboard their European styled yachts, comfortable in 26 www.marinaworld.com – May/June 2021

MARKET UPDATE Saudi Arabia Jeddah Marina is one of several facilities with friendly, above-standard customer service. Saudi’s Red Sea waters offer diving experiences comparable with those in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. the surrounding 5nm waterway without venturing out to the Red Sea. The Obhur Creek marinas are 100% occupied and frankly well organised despite their very old, waterlogged pontoons that house many hundreds of boats from 6-20m (20-66ft) in length. The management of the two main marinas - Jeddah Yacht Marina and Red Sea Marina - are friendly and keen to show off their above-standard customer service, which is traditional and wholesome. They have modern day security systems, reliable boat repairs and ample hardstand areas. Uniformed dockhands are welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable, they help owners dock their boats, and advise new boat owners on the weather, seamanship and technical tasks. It is a tragic irony that we see this type of customer service decreasing or even non existent amongst leading accredited marinas in countries, such as Australia, with better developed marina infrastructure. The success of marinas within coastal towns well north of Jeddah varies. Some marinas and waterfront communities have failed to attract investment despite easy access to the coast and the waterways. Within these residential waterfront communities there is only a handful of boats and there is plenty of land for sale. But the community of Durrah Beach Resort, about two hours’ drive from Jeddah, has conversely been quite successful as a weekend boating retreat. The marina service is good; it offers a small chandlery, repairs, hard standing, cleaning and marina utilities, boat and dive charters, clean and comfortable amenities. Durrah has the added advantage of being a mixed use facility, with many waterfront restaurants, Airbnb, hotel accommodation, promenades, tourism facilities and easy access to the dive sites. One can see why waterfront communities like Durrah work and others have failed but it is also important to take the Saudi culture into account. Unfortunately, the boating culture in Saudi is not as liberal as in many other countries. The country has been slow on the uptake with regard to modern reforms. Young unaccompanied females, for example, are not permitted to go boating and boat owners wanting to cruise the coastline are required to gain approval and a permit from the Jeddah Coast Guard. Each permit needs to list who is aboard, along with their personal passport details. Hidden gem The hidden gem of Saudi is the Red Sea and its unique unspoilt diving opportunities. Intrepid divers over the past three decades left the cold shores of the UK and mainland Europe to investigate nature under the water in Saudi and these diving adventure pioneers have persevered despite visa, travel and cultural challenges. Diving in Saudi is one the country’s best attributes, scuba and snorkelling is in warm water, with coral and natural diving sites that are comparable to those in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Pacific. Over the past 30 years, companies like Dream Divers in Jeddah have been at the forefront of diving adventures and will no doubt be part of the marine tourism industry going forward. At the Al Ahlam Marina on the Obhur Creek, general manager Eric Mason, a British expat who set up Dream Divers after arriving in the Kingdom 40 years ago, knows the local scene and all the politics. He believes that the clean water and vivid coral fields will continue to attract tourists to the Kingdom. “Jeddah is a melting pot and the seas are unique. There are only two boats working 1,800km [1,100mi] of coastline. It’s virgin, and you get everything here in greater numbers than anywhere else in the Red Sea: mantas, hammerhead and whitetip sharks and humphead parrotfish,” he confirmed. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a challenge for the young and old. The old want little to change while the youth want more freedom. It is hoped by many that the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more inviting, socially acceptable and invigorating place will take place in accordance with the Saudi Vision 2030. Joe Goddard is director of Joe Goddard Marine Pty Ltd, based on the Gold Coast, Australia and in Dubai, UAE. Goddard worked for Emaar Hospitality as one of the master planners and was project manager of the Dubai Marina and Yacht Club. He was the first Certified Marina Manager (CMM) in the GCC. E: jgmaustralia@yahoo.com.au www.marinaworld.com – May/June 2021 27

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