Kuwait-based Seas & Deserts Group is a regular attendee to Kuwait Yacht Show. Carla Sommers speaks to Sales Manager, Abdul Hamid Marhaba, about the company’s growth in the GCC and finds out how business has remained so buoyant in these challenging economic times.

What will S&D be showcasing at Kuwait Yacht Show 2017 and what will your company’s attendance at KYS bring?We will showcase a full range of Azimut Yachts in addition to brands such as Sea Ray, Boston Whaler and Garmin, they are the boats we feel are most appropriate to the show and to customers here in Kuwait. The Kuwait Yacht Show is a place where we always look for serious prospects, it’s a huge social gathering so it also enables us to meet clients and gather information for further follow up. We are confident the show will bring a boost to the market as it is exclusive to Kuwait and an important opportunity to introduce our wide range of brands to new customers.

Which of S&D’s latest products are you most proud of? And which product is most relevant to Kuwait? It has to be the Azimut brand! As everyone knows this is an Italian yacht-manufacturing company founded by Paolo Vitelli, based in Avigliana, Italy. Azimut is not only a world-recognized name, it’s the world leader simply because the Azimut-Benetti Group has been commended as the number one yacht builder for sixteen years in a row. The company started by chartering a single sailing boat and then went onto develop into a large luxury yacht-building company. The latest 66 Fly is a great example of their innovation and success; she won The “Most Technologically Advanced Yacht” in the World Yacht Trophy awards, considered among the prestigious awards in the industry, in Cannes in September 2016. Among the entire Azimut lineup, my favorite yachts are the 50-foot and 80-foot Flybridge 77S and 95-foot RPH Grande.

What do you feel gives S&D the edge over other Kuwait companies in the yacht/marine industry? Long experience in the marine business, dedication, good planning and professionalism are our strong points. We always try to offer our clients the best sales and after-sales service and this means building good relations with them, so we can work very closely to address their needs and understand what they want to get out of their yachting experience. Our offices cover Kuwait, UAE and Qatar which also means we have a regional presence.

What are the most important changes S&D has witnessed over the past year in terms of its business and dealerships? Our company is still growing! Very soon we will open a new office Qatar in the new ‘Pearl’ development, which includes a large marina, luxury shopping and residences. We’ve been in the Qatar market for a few years now but we believe moving to this address carries a lot of prestige and we feel certain it’s the ideal location for the marine business in Qatar.

Has S&D been affected by the economic downturn here in the Gulf? If so, how has that impacted business? If not, why not? The economic downturn is in truth global and didn’t just affect the Gulf, it affected all sectors and domains, not only the marine industry. That said, we feel very blessed, thanks to careful marketing strategies and loyal clients we have been able to maintain our sales, even in these tough times, and indeed we are expanding our presence by open luxurious new offices in Qatar, which will add further benefits and give us a higher profile.

How has the yachting industry changed in the last decade? Is technology now playing a much greater role in the industry? Overall the industry has seen many improvements in many areas, especially in terms of design, spatial management, innovation and technology, not forgetting advances in safety and comfort. Today we see the extensive use of pure carbon fibre such as in the Azimut 66 and 72 Flybridge, which before was just used in limited areas of the yacht. In addition, we now have electric power steering, which gives a sensation similar to driving a top-of-the-range car; this is used in the Azimut 66 and Flybridge. Furthermore we see better and more innovative propulsion systems such as those used by Benetti Super Yachts. All the above have significantly improved the speed, efficiency, comfort, and safety of the yacht owners. It has brought about lower noise levels and better maneuverability; plus it has also allowed the increasing of internal space for the same size and weight of the boats, so the client who buys a boat today gets a better all-round experience at sea compared to a few years ago.