I was going to take the family to the London Boat Show. But I didn't....

I was going to take the family to the London Boat Show. But I didn?t.”Too expensive, nothing for the kids to do, too much aggravation.?These words were spoken to me by a friend of mine. He?s a moderately wealthy chap, with a large house in a leafy suburb of north London and three kids in private education. They?re a boaty kind of family, but they have other interests that also demand time and money. They went to the show last year ?to see what ExCeL was like?, and decided to give it a miss this year.

I was slightly surprised at this. This is a bloke who drives a fully loaded X5 and takes the family skiing every year in some of the smarter alpine resorts. Then I did the maths for my own family. Entrance fees ? £49. Parking ? £10. Travel costs and time ? significant if you?re coming from the Midlands or the south coast. Food and drink ? £60. I was beginning to see his point. And if a moderately wealthy family with ExCeL practically on their doorstep can?t be bothered to turn up, why would less affluent, non-boaties bother?

Okay, so my mate Tony has a point about the cost (the London show is 60% more expensive than most European shows). But what about the point about amusements for those who don?t necessarily want to root about in enginerooms or haggle for cheap fenders? Not much joy there, either. Jeremy Clarkson identified this problem in a piece about the show in The Sunday Times. The wind-blown pool is a diversion, for a few minutes. The Royal Navy frigate is okay if you like that kind of thing. But kids (and non-boaty grown-ups) have a pretty low boredom threshold at boat shows. There isn?t a whole lot for them to do.

So attendances were down at this year?s Boat Show. Rubbish weather and a huge fire on the M25 didn?t help, but there are perceptions out there that the boat show is too similar to last year?s and isn?t particularly good value. I happen to think that the show is still reasonable value, but I do regularly take my kids to Premiership football matches at Highbury, drive a car that does 14mpg, and spend hundreds of pounds for a few hours boating, so what do I know about value for money?