Yachting Clubs: The importance of watersports in a yachting destination


By Dr. Fabiana Maccarini

General Manager, FABMAR Consultancy

Sport plays an important role in the growth and appeal of any global city. Sport is health and health is happiness. In a successful yachting destination, the Yacht Club and the Watersport Center are the heart and the identity of the marina, assembling the core elements of a Yacht Club's ambience – brand, style, quality services and networking, gathering multidirectional synergies and networks instrumental to generate b2b and b2c opportunities. A marina and a yachting destination become appealing and successful when they can be recognised for the local and national nautical and social events that they host. The Yacht Club, with its sport events, activities and network, becomes instrumental to promote the yachting destination at national level, and to position the marina in the global nautical framework. Events, strategically planned to occur during the whole year and dedicated to boaters and no boaters, bring people and life within the development.

What is a Yacht Club?

Although the terms Yacht Club and Sailing Club and/or Watersports Center tend to be synonymous, some general differences exist. Historically a Yacht Club tended to focus on a membership composed of yacht owners, including motorboats. This type of club is often extremely exclusive, attracting the wealthy people owning superyachts or the top-level racing. To be a yacht club member is a commitment. Unwritten rules, traditions, etiquette, and style are historically the corner stones of the most important Yacht Clubs in the world.

In the last few years, the “face” of yacht clubs is changing, with a trend to make the clubs less formal as younger members are demanding a more casual environment. In a more modern concept, the Yacht Club is a concierge and hospitality center for marina users, guests and watersport enthusiasts.

Integrated within the Yacht Club, a Watersport/Sailing Center tends to focus on a free attendance of watersport enthusiasts. It is the beating heart of the marina where the younger generation learn to respect and understand the deep beauty of the sea and its elements, and to play with the wind and the sea. The watersport centers develop and nourish the sea and sailing culture among kids and young people, become promoters of the spirit and tradition of sailing and sea, and are the heart of the yacht clubs, developing image, communication and culture of the sea, through regattas and related social events.

Advice to developers

In marinas and yachting destinations, yacht clubs and watersport centers should be implemented and developed to become the identity of the place. The “contents” of the clubs should the built around the water/sailing sports activities, the hospitality and the services. With its own club, the marina will continue to promote the cultural and social development of the local maritime tradition by creating a pole, nationally and internationally recognised. A synergy will be created whereby each entity will support the other in terms of image, communication, customers and revenue. Since culture and education to the sea are the key factors in a long-term project, schools and universities shall be included in the marketing plan, duly extended to the nautical and tourism industry.

The UAE’s unique opportunity

In the last few years, UAE invested a lot to become the hub of international sports. A number of international organizations have chosen to operate their businesses in the UAE, either on a permanent or temporary basis. Sailing in the Arabian Peninsula has played a key role in the growth and development of the Arabic Gulf countries for trading with Africa and Asia. The Dhow, together to the Abra, are the traditional Arab boats combining history and charm of Arabic culture. All watersports are quite popular in UAE all over the year. Wind conditions are perfect to practice sailing from October to May.

With the development of proper facilities, by investing in qualified personnel and through an important marketing and communication programme, UAE is in the process to affirm itself in a strong market position at both national and international level, offering to its citizens and visitors, kids, teenager and adults, the possibility to practice sailing and watersport activities at any level.