BY Nick Walton on 8 Jul 2024

Lee Oldroyd, chief commercial officer, Global Sales for Gulf Craft Group, discusses the rise of the GCC as a yachting industry hub, and the company’s expansion plans.

How did you first get into the world of yachting and how have you seen it change in that time?

I grew up on the south coast of England next to the Sunseeker Shipyard. I had friends with boats up to 60ft, so we would often enjoy weekends on the water around Poole and Dorset, admiring the larger vessels on the water in front of the shipyard. I remember getting a brochure on one of the open days at Sunseeker sales, with the range of vessels of the time, and wanting to be a part of that lifestyle. I then joined Sunseeker International after school to become a marine electrical engineer, working my way up to warranty / aftersales and finally into charter, yacht management and sales under the Sunseeker umbrella.

During my two decades there, I witnessed significant advancements in construction innovation, including the incorporation of ecological specifications. Additionally, the brand’s yacht design progressed considerably to enhance the client experience, with improvements in layouts and features reflecting this evolution.

Before joining Gulf Craft, you worked with Camper & Nicholsons across Southeast Asia and Sunseeker Asia based in Hong Kong – how do you see the SEA region’s yachting scene evolving and what role does it have to play in the global yachting industry?

Spending most of the last decade in Asia as COO and seeing the differences in markets, sales techniques and client preferences, allowed me to acquire new skills to strategically bridge these eastern and western methods and to apply them to other regions across the globe to maximise sales. The Covid pandemic led to a surge in yacht purchases as people sought freedom and a sense of liberty during restrictive times. Although this has slowed a little, it raised awareness of the multiple yachting lifestyles and longer cruising choices available to Asian buyers that many interested parties hadn’t experienced before. This is followed by the growth of yacht shows in the area and the demand for higher standards of hospitality and yachting culture. 

Lee Oldroyd

Now in Dubai, you’re spearheading the new Gulf Craft Group positioning – tell us about the company’s shift in focus.

As CCO of global sales, and under Gulf Craft Inc chairman His Excellency Mohammed Alshaali, I’m proud to be able to bring such a great range of products from the Gulf Craft shipyard in the UAE to the world. To enhance the company’s robust position and its brands, I’ve developed plans to expand our growth strategy by focusing on international markets with the Gulf Craft Group.

Drawing on my decades of experience in the industry worldwide, I can strategically plan shows, events, and strengthen our dealer network to effectively showcase our range to clients and industry experts. We have already been honoured with several awards for our innovative designs and engineering at several core industry events. We have had a very strong loyal clientele base within the GCC for the past 42 years, and already this year has been our best to date with my shift in focus and commitment enabling people to experience for themselves the leaps and bounds the shipyard has made with its latest range. 

Gulf Craft had a major presence at the recent Dubai International Boat Show; how was the event for Gulf Craft and how do you see the show’s evolution in the region?

At the 2024 Dubai International Boat Show, we showcased 16 yachts to the region and visiting guests and were inundated with compliments on the advancements made year after year. It was our most successful show in our recent history, and we are delighted that so many people are choosing to buy and enjoy our yachts across the globe. We are currently discussing ways to expand our events to meet the growing demand, as the UAE has become a hub for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The lifestyles available to residents offer exciting new experiences in and around the water, with our full range of yachts from 32ft to 175ft ready to serve them right on their doorstep.

Lee Oldroyd, chief commercial officer, Global Sales for Gulf Craft Group, discusses the rise of the GCC as a yachting industry hub, and the company’s expansion plans.

Everyone’s talking about the UAE at present and companies like Sunreef are making a major play for the region. How do you see the Gulf’s yachting industry evolving in the coming years?

Dubai is known for having the biggest and best buildings, attractions, and man- made islands. The GCC also has some fascinating developments that will be out of this world. With this comes infrastructure growth, transport links, marinas, service yards and new potential cruising areas for those wanting a change from the Caribbean during the winter. Strategically, the GCC is centrally positioned between Europe, Asia and Africa for logistics and to attract buyers from all regions without them having to travel far. Looking back on what Dubai has achieved in the last few decades, I’m looking forward to seeing what GCC can create in the future.

You’re presently on a tour of major events and markets – what’s the message you’re looking to send from the Gulf Craft Group?

We are part way through our global tour and our message is simple; Come experience these new yachts for yourself in a city near you. We have listened, learnt, and crafted an award-winning international product and are confident consumers will be impressed by our innovation, price point, and availability. We want to share this with would-be boat owners by bringing our range of yachts to locations across the globe. 

Lee Oldroyd, chief commercial officer, Global Sales for Gulf Craft Group, discusses the rise of the GCC as a yachting industry hub, and the company’s expansion plans.

Where are you seeing most of your growth at present and where will your focus be in terms of the Majesty and Nomad brands in the year to come?

This year, with our global tour, we have strengthened the growth and focus in a few key areas. For the market, we have seen that Europe and Australia are quieter than usual; however, generally, as we have a vast range of brands and sizes, we have something for everybody in all market conditions. The USA and GCC stay strong, with pockets of wealth amongst South America and Africa. Asia has potential, and yachting is a growing trend there. 

Gulf Craft built the world’s largest composite mega yacht, the Majesty 175. Now you have announced the sale of the new Majesty 160. Tell us how the project is progressing.

The Majesty 175 was a fantastic vessel, and the Majesty 160 is even more impressive in design and innovation. We have seen a significant increase in buyers who have outgrown there previous 30/40metre yachts and are looking for the next comfortable step before going into megayachts. The new Majesty 160 is progressing nicely, and I am excited to experience and enjoy the end product. We are currently working on a few enquiries for the Majesty 160, and so by the time of her launch, we should already have quite an impressive order book.

Lee Oldroyd, chief commercial officer, Global Sales for Gulf Craft Group, discusses the rise of the GCC as a yachting industry hub, and the company’s expansion plans.

Sustainability was a key talking point at DIBS; where does Gulf Craft sit in the sustainability discussion?

Gulf Craft chairman H.E Mohammed Alshaali and his family feel strongly about creating yachts for future generations that are sustainable and incorporate eco-friendly power sources and efficient systems. We are very proud of our award-winning HVAC systems, which minimises wasted heat onboard. Across our global shipyards and offices, we continually strive for improvement each year while fostering an inclusive work environment. We also offer diverse employment opportunities and internships, collaborating closely with local universities.

Gulf Craft is a key sponsor of several major events, including Sail GP and the Monaco and Abu Dhabi Grand Prixs. What does the company get out of these collaborations and what events do you have your eye on for the year ahead?

Gulf Craft is passionate about the joy that can come from spending time with loved ones on the open sea and onboard at these lifestyle events and we want to be able to share these with our loyal and potential clients. We have a history of participating in major events, but our goal is to establish a stronger presence within the industry. We aim to contribute to events and initiatives we believe in, given our strong legacy and pioneering expertise in the world of composites. As the brands are now expanding across the globe, stay tuned for more news soon about future event collaborations that you can become a part of and enjoy with us.

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