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Business

Luxury Yachts Fare Well in Stormy Economic Seas

Offering everything from bikinis to racing boats, water sports fans are gathering at Dusseldorf's boating trade fair. Luxury yacht makers said they're confident the recession won't sink their clientele's spending habits.

The 2B yacht

Luxury yacht sales have withstood the recession better than mid-class vessels

Some 1,650 exhibitors from 55 countries are vying for visitors' attention at the 40th Boat trade fair, called boot Düsseldorf, which runs through Sunday, Jan. 25. But it's still the luxury yachts, not the canoes or even the sailboats, that set mouths agape.

The ships, whose price tags hover between hundreds and millions of euros, will remain out of reach for most the fair's guests, but that hasn't kept them from kicking off their shoes in an old sailing tradition and getting a closer look at the vessels like the 2B.

Nearly 28 meters (92 feet) long, the ship offers the best of everything according Andreas Schmidt, the vice-president of Drettmann Group, which makes the 160-ton yacht.

Salon in the 2B yacht

The 2B's living room offers the comforts of home

"Whether its material from Jaap or motors from MAN, we buy all the materials you can see here in Europe," he said, adding that the yacht has to set itself apart to justify its price of about 1 million euros. "The future owner can choose everything from the motor to the silverware."

While sales for luxury yachts, equipped like the 2B with walk-in closets, a television in every room and even the possibility of an elevator or sauna, haven't experienced much of a drop as potential buyers tend to be wealthy enough to weather the recession, sales of mid-class vessels have been harder hit, Schmidt said.

Drop in sales expected for 2009

Sales generated by the yacht and water sports industry, but excluding superyachts, are expected to have dropped in 2008 by just under two percent to 1.84 billion euros compared to the previous year, according to the statistics from the German Federal Association of the Water Sports Industry (BVWW).

Boats at the Boat trade fair

Industry-wide forecasts for 2009 predict a decline in sales

The organization's managing director, Juergen Tracht, anticipated that 2009 would also see a fall in sales, "which, if the rosier view is adopted, will be limited to single digits," he said in a statement.

Sales of heating, refrigeration, cooking and sanitary facilities as well as multimedia systems are also gaining in importance as boat owners make investments in their current vessels rather than buying new ships, according to the BVWW.

Ship shape for the future?

Boat trade fair head Goetz-Ulf Jungmichel said the industry as a whole could be passing through the final waves of its stormy seas.

"Our clientele has certainly become more cautious," he said. "But optimism is returning."

Schmidt is among the more optimistic exhibitors at the trade fair, which this year saw a drop in floor-space rental and exhibiting companies.

"The people who lost a lot of money will be the first to make it back," he said. "The year 2009 will be tight, but we're sure that we will overcome this crisis."

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