Bahrain boating market
Leisure boating is extremely popular in Bahrain, although because of the relatively small population the market is not large with an estimated 1,500 leisure boats. Most of the boating is carried out between April and November, as Bahrain’s proximity towards the northern end of the Gulf ensures that winters are windy and cold. Bahrain offers a much wider market for boating equipment, electronics and engines than imagined, as much imported equipment is sold on to customers in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Product lines are generally sourced from the USA because the Bahrain dinar is fixed to the US dollar. Bahrain is almost devoid of suitable boat importers because of the small size of the market, and Bahrain customers will willingly travel to boatbuilders in the UAE or further to Europe or the US to purchase
• Big market for luxury goods
• Investment at all time high
• High levels of disposable income
• Shortage of berthing facilities
• Service and support structure in its infancy
• Neighbouring political unrest
Kuwait currently has the strongest boating market in the region. The country occupies a strategic position at the head of the Gulf, flanked on the east by the Gulf waters. Only 18,000km2 in size, Kuwait has one of the most productive oil fields in the world and consequently one of the richest economies. Oil was first discovered in the early 1930s and, by the time the first oil wells were in production in 1938, it was obvious that the country was virtually floating on oil. The resulting revenue has allowed the ruling Al Sabah family to develop an impressive infrastructure and welfare system for its population. Despite the well-known history of the Iraq invasion and the subsequent Gulf war, Kuwait still has enormous financial reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia. The Kuwaiti people are some of the most educated in the Gulf and travel widely.
Bahrain is the smallest of the Gulf States and is very much allied with the sea, being composed of a collection of over 30 islands linked by bridges and causeways. Bahrain’s strategic location in the Gulf, with natural harbours, ensured from the earliest days that it quickly established itself as a main trading centre for the region. Oil was discovered in commercial quantities in 1932 and this, combined with Bahrain’s natural trading and commercial ability, ensured that the country became the most advanced in the Gulf — until the late 1980s, when it was overtaken by Dubai as the commercial hub of the region. However, Bahrain is still one of the most outward-looking and advanced countries in the region with close ties with the UK and the US.
In Bahrain the population of over 700,000 includes a relatively high number of expatriates who mix easily with the Gulf Arabs.
Oman is a country that contrasts strongly with Bahrain and Kuwait, having a much larger land area and a spectacular coastline with beautiful boating waters. Without a doubt, Oman offers the best leisure boating in the Middle East. Previously a difficult country to visit, the ruler, Sultan Qaboos, has relaxed the rules considerably and tourism is a developing industry and recognised as one of the main target sectors for investment and growth. However, the government has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that infrastructure and real estate developments match the natural surroundings — a lack of high-rise development is the most obvious sign to the visitor. The country does not have the levels of personal wealth seen in other GCC countries and a large part of the workforce is Omani, resulting in a smaller expatriate workforce.
The growing Dubai International Boat Show in March also receives an increasing number of Bahraini customers.
One of the main leisure marine distributors in Bahrain is Kooheji & Sons — one of the longest-established Yamaha outboard motor dealers in the world, having represented the brand for 45 years.
According to Mohammed Kooheji, director for special projects: “In the past, the maximum number of imported boats in the good years has only been about 30. Now we are anticipating that the market will grow substantially in the next four years for both boat and engine sales with the completion of the new marina developments. We are actively looking for boat brands to represent in Bahrain.”