A good boat show needs two things to succeed

A good boat show needs two things to succeed: happy visitors and happy exhibitors. Last year’s London Boat Show seemed to be a little light on both. The good news is that organisers National Boat Shows have finally done something about the first half of the equation. A variety of new interactive exhibition features, a more concentrated layout and free tickets for children under 15 should make it a much more viable proposition as a fun day out for all the family (see p69 for more details). Good on them! I’m sure it’s the right move.

The second half of the equation is a far trickier proposition. The two key issues are the allocation of space and the ever-increasing cost of exhibiting. I’ve spoken to a number of dealers who question whether the amount of business they get from London justifies the expense of exhibiting there.

The reason these waverers still continue to go is the complex system of loyalty points that National Boat Shows use to allocate stand space at the London and Southampton shows. The bottom line is that if a company decides not to exhibit one year because they haven’t got anything new to shout about, they risk missing out on a decent slot in any subsequent years when they have. This same system also acts as a hurdle to smaller yards and overseas competitors, many of whom claim they would love to exhibit their new models at London but never get a proper look in because priority goes to existing exhibitors.

National Boat Shows are adamant that this is the fairest way to make unpopular decisions forced on them by the physical limitations of the venue. This may well be the case but whether it makes for the best possible show is debatable. Surely what visitors want is a vibrant show with the maximum variety of exhibitors showing their very latest creations? Would it not be possible to devise a system that gave extra priority to exhibitors wanting to use London as the global launch platform for an all-new boat or piece of equipment? That way the big British yards would still be rewarded for unveiling their new models at London but smaller fry and overseas players might be encouraged to launch their new boats there too, thereby raising the international profile of the show itself.

One more thing. Next month’s issue won’t hit the shelves until Tuesday 9th Jan so that we can squeeze in the results of the Motor Boat of the Year Awards being announced the night before. I guarantee it will be worth the wait.