We talk Croydon, culture and charters with Xclusive Yachts’ Amit Patel.

Hello Amit, can you tell the reader a little about yourself and how you went from Croydon to Dubai?

Born and bred in Croydon, the birth of the first-ever international airport in the United Kingdom, I could hardly have imagined the opportunities that awaited me. Finding an aptitude for success, I chose to remain close by and began my studies at the University of Birmingham. Little did I know that soon enough, I’d embark on a journey of exploration that would take me thousands of miles away from where I started – a trip to Dubai for vacation changed everything.

From a young age, I have had an unwavering eye for business. To this day, I have always been inspired by my parents, who are both self-employed. At 14, when most people didn’t even know what the internet was yet, I ran numerous flourishing businesses. The ambitious nature I developed drove me to make lasting changes to the industry by calling upon technology yet undreamt of by most. My resolve was such that it eventually caught the attention of a large well-known American hosting company that acquired my company outright.

During my stay in Dubai, I set off into the hospitality industry as ambitious as ever. Here, at the age of 22, I jumped head first into hotel development by embracing roles ranging from building and expansion to pre-opening projects.

But given so many future prospects, I also found an opportunity in operations related to yachting services. And later on, focus solely on leisure activities.

What was Dubai’s boat culture like when you arrived here in the mid-2000s?

Back in the 2000s, in the early days of Xclusive Yachts, no one had operated a business like ours before in Dubai. We introduced a never-before-seen activity to the government, and it was a unique challenge to build our own code from scratch since nothing quite like this had been done, and that was the birth of Xclusive Yachts. As we gradually established the business, we mostly offered 3-hour charters on yachts 70 feet and below. Back then, people rarely booked more than a couple of charters each week, but now — wow! — we book three or four per day at around 2000 Dirhams for the same charter length as we used to offer at 20,000 Dirhams. Clearly, things have changed and grown in leaps and bounds!

Was there an existing charter industry?

Not really. There was not much information available on commercial charters that could be found online or in print publications. It seemed to be more of a hidden venture – only those in the know could gain access as word spread amongst close friends and acquaintances. Nothing was official; it was almost as if these excursions were taking place behind a veil of mystery. Nevertheless, despite how little information could be gathered, there were still some intrepid customers who managed to arrange the trips through their contacts.

What made you decide to start Xclusive Yachts?

When I was 21, a golden opportunity presented itself, I was managing a private yacht in Dubai on behalf of some wealthy individuals who lived in London. They rarely used the yacht, and I identified the potential of a commercial opportunity whereby I rented it out here-and-there to people who didn’t own a yacht. The owners were supportive, and I seized the opportunity to work out how to formalise a license and register the company as an official business, launching what would soon become a successful enterprise. It all began with harnessing the potential and having the courage to take risks. It was the start of turning a dream into reality; my own venture in renting and chartering luxury boat trips. With years of dedication and passion, this concept has become my pride and joy.

How did you grow the business?

As the business grew, other companies in Dubai offered similar services, and we realised we needed to diversify beyond buying and renting boats. We also wanted to expand our clientele, and the best way to do that was to get people onto the water. With this in mind, we established a sea school that would not only train people to drive boats but gives them a personal experience with the water.

In Dubai, you need to own a yacht in order to drive it, which can be extremely limiting, and that’s when we established a boat club where you can go on a boat like it’s your own without going through the hassle of owning it.

The great thing is that we are getting people onto the water, making that first connection between them and the sea, and it is that first step that creates future yacht owners. Our sea school has changed lives, creating connections between aspiring boaters and an opportunity of ownership previously unseen by many. A great example of how successful this idea has been is when one of our sea school students contacted me after recently purchasing a 35-metre boat – an amazing accomplishment for somebody who had never stepped foot on a boat before coming through our doors.

One of our sea school students contacted me after recently purchasing a 35-metre boat.
How is business today?

Over the years, we have seen the global demand for yachts skyrocket. To meet that demand, we have built an impressive collection featuring boats of all sizes and kinds. We can trace this back to when we purchased our first 70-footer, which served as a springboard for expanding our fleet.

Nowadays, our owned yachts are more diverse than ever and stretch across all sizes, including two large superyachts added in the last couple of years. From recreational boats to fishing boats to sports yachts, we’ve experienced tremendous growth in the volume and diversity of requests by customers all around the globe.

Today we own more than 70 boats. After witnessing such extraordinary expansion within our market, it’s clear that this is just the beginning for us. Our goal is to satisfy our customers’ needs while always striving to remain a leader in this ever-growing market. Our team has proven adept at adapting quickly to the ever-evolving trends of modern yacht culture, ensuring that we stay ahead of the competition.

Back in the 2000s, in the early days of Xclusive Yachts, no one had operated a business like ours before in Dubai.
How’s the sea school going?

We are an RYA sea school in Dubai, and we are proud of the hundreds of students who come to train and learn how to drive boats with us every year. To take the next step in our journey, we opened a boat club for members, below 12 metres. Students could get their powerboat qualifications and then immediately have access to boats on their doorstep.

With a monthly fee, there’s no hassle or high cost of owning a boat, and members can drive as many boats as they want during their membership period. Plus, all boats are kept in pristine working order for each session so that members get maximum enjoyment of their time on the water without worrying about breakdowns and technical issues. Our goal is to enable members to arrive at the boat and find that everything is functioning perfectly so they can maximize their time enjoying the vast waterways Dubai has to offer. So, if you are looking for an effortless sailing experience with hassle-free RYA training, we have them with our sea school and our conveniently located boat club in Dubai.

Can you tell us about your Mediterranean plans?

Our purchase of Behike at the start of 2020, before COVID, marked an exciting new chapter for our business as we embarked on European expansion. We entrusted her management to Camper & Nicholsons and are currently weighing up whether it is more beneficial for us to base her in the Mediterranean or bring her to Dubai.

However, our plans have not stopped there – just last year, we acquired a second stunning similar-sized superyacht in Dubai, Stardom, and with that came the launch of our latest product offering, the Superyacht Experience.

This service offers guests access to a luxurious 43m Tri-deck superyacht, complete with refitted interiors specifically designed for hosting larger groups. Our team is excited about this new direction and what it could mean for our business moving forward.

The fleet: Xclusive has over 70 boats and yachts available, stretching from RIBs, up to the 140ft Stardom.
What can we expect from Xclusive Yachts in 2023?

For 2023, we launched the aforementioned Super Yacht Experience. This service offers an all-inclusive experience of ultimate luxury for just $100 per person that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Guests will be provided with access to all the features typically found in a superyacht – chefs, bartenders, DJs, water activities, and more – all watched over by 16 dedicated crew members across various nationalities.

This unique experience has quickly become popular among guests and is seen as a ‘must-do’. To accommodate the surging demand, we are looking to purchase additional superyachts between 30 metres to 45 metres in size. Moreover, our sights are set on countries within the GCC region and Europe for potential expansion with one or two boats.

For our Boat Club, starting a Boat Club in Europe for 12-metre boats is an exciting and ambitious goal, but before taking the plunge, we need to weigh out the details. Regulations in Europe may be more stringent than they are in Dubai, so this will have an effect on our business model. However, we are definitely looking into other opportunities outside of Europe: currently, we are focusing our efforts on expanding into other parts of the Middle East, which is already keeping our hands full!