What led to your interest in the boating industry?
I started my career as a computer engineer in Switzerland. I would often visit Lebanon to visit family, friends, and just enjoy the things I love best in life, including waterskiing, diving, and fishing. Often on my visits many people would seek my advice and opinion when purchasing a boat. I never thought much of it then until a good friend of mine, who owned a service boat company that I used to spend most of my days fishing with, said to me “Why don't we start a boating business? You sell the boats and I'll take care of the service." It sounded like a good idea, and so I took the challenge and went to the Miami Boat Show, where my business in this field all began, becoming a dealer for three brands. The first brands I represented were Regal, Fountain, and Proline. I selected the boats based on their characteristics and the demand in the area at that time. Regal was for pleasure boating, Fountain was for speedboats, and Proline was for fishing. I was determined to have my business grow quickly, so I invested a lot of my time and efforts to accomplish this goal.
Was it difficult for you to enter the Lebanese market?
To enter any market is a challenge. The difficulty is that there are competitors already established and you are new; however, it was an easy task to accomplish, and we obtained a respectable reputation in this market, as it is my hobby, my life, and my passion. I was well prepared, motivated, and determined—and those are three strong tools that assisted me to succeed instantly. After two years of being operational, I obtained the exclusive dealership for Riva in Lebanon because of the Boat Show in 2000. Then, in 2001 Riva became part of the Ferretti Group, which noticed me and told me that I was the right person for it, hence, becoming the Ferretti Group dealer for Lebanon. By 2007, I covered the territories of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, being the exclusive dealer to selected brands that best suit those markets.
How much do your boats cost?
The price range of our boats starts from $50,000, going all the way up to the millions. We represent over 12 brands now in order to assure that we have a diversified range of boats that can meet the needs of any client wishing to own a boat.
How many units of boats do you sell?
The units sold by Sea Pros Yachts don't show in numbers, but rather in volume and value. Sea Pros Yachts has sold the largest CRN yacht ever for over $100 million. We are one of the rare companies worldwide that is able to sell two to three mega yachts per year.
How many SEABOBs did you sell in 2013?
The SEABOB is a well desired water toy because of its advance technology and top performance. We are selling 60-70 units per year here in Lebanon, each unit ranging between €9,000 and €13,000. The recently launched new SEABOB F5 & F5S, weighing only 29 kilograms compared to the 64-kilogram older model, allows any boat owner to own a SEABOB, and has been revolutionary, selling out before the units have been supplied to us.
Why did you keep the name as Sea Pros?
Sea Pros Yachts is the name that I started with in 1998, and will carry on to be the name as it has taken its place in the industry and has a highly respectable reputation. We are now leaders in this industry because of our passion, determination, and commitment to innovative business developments that enhance customer satisfaction.
How important is Lebanon in relation to your international market?
Lebanon is a rich country with its resources, being a beautiful country in a prominent location. It is situated perfectly on the map, open to the fruitful Mediterranean Sea, allowing boat owners the freedom to travel to many wonderful coasts, islands, and beaches. Many Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Emirati clients moor here in Lebanon rather than the South of France because of the benefits of the country and the leisure to use the boat eight months in the year rather than two to three months. Apart from the country's benefit to boat owners, Lebanon is also an important market because mega yachts are in demand.
What do you think needs to be done to resolve the shortage of moorings?
All countries along the coast are facing problems in mooring, and the only solution is to have investors wanting to develop a marina or create a new one. This is one of the dreams I have been pursuing since June 2012; to create a larger, advanced facility for mooring and recreational activities. I am still awaiting the permit for this project that would be a game changer for the boating industry and the economy. Both boating aficionados, along with the government, will benefit from such a project, having tourism and GDP increase with a new innovative facility that will allow those who travel by sea to visit and experience something magical.
Is there much construction involved?
The land and space available is much larger than any other marina facility in Lebanon. The construction involved will be extensive as there will be a lot of different facilities for members, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, squash courts, the marina itself, and much more. All the drawings and layouts have been sketched and designed; this project is really something worth the wait.
What are you expecting for 2014?
As always, Sea Pros Yachts every year is focused on moving forward by constantly finding innovative solutions for the boating industry. For 2014, we are hoping to have the consent to commence with our project to grow and establish a better area to serve our clients in both sales and service. With the current infrastructure situation restricting both sales and service, both Sea Pros Yachts and our after-sales sister company, Yachting Services, are finding it difficult to reach potential and accomplish goals. I am hoping to realize this dream of a new marina facility to create a better yachting experience for customers. I believe that once it is operational, we will experience an increase of over 100% just from the first year; it will definitely be a completely different way of boating and a promising project for a better future.