Another London Boat Show and another year of falling visitor numbers......

Another London Boat Show and another year of falling visitor numbers. In fact the only thing that ever seems to go up is the cost. It needn’t be this way. Motorboating is still a growing hobby in this country and for once we have a manufacturing industry to be proud of. So how come the London show seems to be slipping lower and lowerdown the international agenda?

To my mind there are two glaring issues: timing and variety. Whoever thought that having a boat show in England in January was a good idea must have over-indulged on the brandy butter. Apart from a dedicated core of winter boating enthusiasts, the majority of British boat owners are quite happy pursuing other, less thermally challenging pursuits until the sun returns. So who can blame them if the idea of trudging out to ExCeL when the days are at their shortest and memories of a blissful summer afloat have long since faded into darkness, fails to light their fire.

Then there’s the problem of the vast Düsseldorf show following hot on London’s heels at the end of January. With such limited space available to new exhibitors at ExCeL more and more of Europe’s big players choose to save their major product launches for Düsseldorf. Move the show to March and things might be different. The first rays of spring sunshine will have already set dormant boaters thinking about the coming season. City bonuses will be burning a hole in successful traders’ pockets and, with the exception of the low-key Palma Boat Show, there are no major European shows to contend with.

At this time of year visitors might actually dare to visit boats displayed on the
outside pontoons, thereby making more space available inside and out to major overseas builders keen to show a more comprehensive range of products. Take all these things together and suddenly you’d have a boat show to reckon with. The only flaw in the plan is that ExCeL is already booked up during March by various drab book fairs and exhibitions, all of whom pay higher rates for choosing to exhibit their wares at a time of year when people are actually interested in seeing them. Then again, if National Boat Shows offered to reduce the length of the show so that it runs from Saturday to Saturday and threaten to move it to Birmingham if ExCeL don’t make space, who knows what could happen? Am I alone in thinking this might be a good idea?