Insight: Burgess’s Middle Eastern expansion

Written by Gemma Fottles

Joining the company December last year as Managing Director of the new Burgess office in Dubai, previous General Manager of the Dubai Marina Yacht Club, Jonathan Hind, is spearheading Burgess’s plans to expand their markets in the Middle East. SYT spoke to Hind recently, who offered his insights into the Middle Eastern market and the company’s expansion plans.

Running a marina is a very different job than selling yachts. Is the experience you gained from running a marina helpful in running a regional office of a yacht brokerage company?

In many ways that is correct. There are some key differences, but there are also great synergies, and these are amplified in a society like Dubai. In my previous role the daily management of the marina and yacht club was actually only about 10% of the job: a standard week for me could start with a board presentation and end up on a cruising rally with 30 boats in Oman. In the same way, yes, we sell yachts but Burgess also provides yacht owners and clients with support through every aspect of their yachting life, from operational management and crew services to charter and new build supervision. It is my role to work across these services with our experienced team of brokers and managers to ensure our clients in the Middle East receive the same Burgess standard of service as offered by any of our other offices.

The fact that I’ve come from a different background actually adds value as it broadens our expertise and every day we are learning something new together. I also bring to the company a strong network and a sound understanding of doing business in the region. Burgess recognises that in order to run a regional office successfully it is critically important to have a team with sound cultural and business awareness. It is a business model that is working well for us in Asia and we are confident in the groundwork we are laying here. At the end of the day it all comes down to building and maintaining strong client relationships by providing excellent customer service and trustworthy advice. Add that to a lifelong passion for boating and being on the water and for me Burgess is a natural fit.

Is yacht charter popular amongst clients from the Middle East and do you think that will grow?

In short, yes and yes! We have a long and proud history of serving customers from the Middle East and our global charter team is well versed in providing exceptional charter experiences for clients from this part of the world. We are talking together today following the Dubai Show where we had the very special opportunity to showcase the brand new 70-metre Feadship Joy for charter. This exceptional yacht was very well received by our clients and we also saw considerable interest in the 77-metre Silver Fast which we represent for both sale and charter. We are also closely involved with charters for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each year, undoubtedly one of the highlights of the UAE’s calendar.

Do you think that there is enough diversity in the cruising grounds around Dubai to charter a yacht for a longer period of time or will it mostly be day trips?

There is certainly some good cruising to be done in Dubai and the UAE and we are also seeing more clients keen to explore Dubai as a destination in itself. While these are not likely to be long trips it’s fair to say that cruising out of Dubai on a yacht is undoubtedly the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. More importantly though, the remarkable Maldives are only a five hour flight from here and offer some of the most exquisite cruising grounds in the world. Some of the best yachts from the Burgess fleet now include the Maldives in their annual itineraries which presents very exciting opportunities for us here in Dubai.

The percentage of yachts above 80-metres that are owned by clients from the Middle East is very high, below that LOA is a different story. Do you think there is an opportunity to sell more yachts between 30 and 80-metres to clients from the region?

It’s true that we are privileged to be working for the owners of some of the largest yachts in the region and as we all know, yachts just keep getting bigger. The future business prospects in this sector will undoubtedly be very interesting, but we are also working with clients and yacht owners across a wide spectrum and are finding that some owners enjoy the flexibility that comes from smaller boats. A new generation of yacht owners is emerging – enthusiasts who are not only looking for size and comfort but are increasingly interested in the activities offered on board, the watertoys their yacht carries, its range and the destinations it can access. This is something I saw in my previous role and it’s apparent that the midsize market will become increasingly important over the coming years.

Are your clients mainly from the Middle East or does the expat community in the region diversify that?

We have a range of clients from all over the world. Our clients work with professionals they trust and while many of our clients prefer to work with a broker based in their own time zone, we recognise that the nature of their business is often international and as such, so is our service offering. Don’t forget that Dubai in itself is a very international destination – it really is a 21st century crossroads. Our new Dubai operation is the natural development of our long-standing commitment to the Middle East region but I have no doubt that we are attracting further business by building a strong physical presence here. Our intention is very much to provide the Burgess expertise to clients through the right combination of our global, multilingual and multinational team of brokers and managers.

Do you see an opportunity for Burgess to manage more yachts for clients from the Middle East?

This is a really key service that will be especially important as the superyacht industry and its infrastructure are still in the early stages of development in the region. We believe that we have the best management offering in the industry and having spent a number of years here I feel we are well placed to provide a professional and unrivalled management service to local clients. But it’s not simply a question of parachuting in with a ‘standard’ yacht management package. We know that clients are looking for a customised service that is tailored to how they use their yacht, how they live their lives and, crucially, what professional services are available within the region. We are not underestimating the importance of local knowledge, cultural awareness and regional expertise. We already manage a number of significant yachts owned by GCC nationals and clients in the wider Middle East region and are optimistic that business will build as news spreads of our expertise and experience.

We are under no illusions that building our business here will take time and investment, but we are fortunate in that we already have a strong and credible track record in the region with excellent foundations to build upon.

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