Lack of support blamed for the London Boat Show's demise

Next year’s London Boat Show has been cancelled. The event, which was due to run from 9 to 13 January 2019, was pulled by its organisers British Marine due to ‘insufficient support from a large proportion of the marine industry to the London Boat Show with its current format, duration and location’.

Market Research Agency, Zing Insights, spent three weeks carrying out interviews with over 67% of exhibitors. This revealed that whilst a number of marine companies supported last year’s change from 10 to 5 days, a large number of key exhibitors were not prepared to commit to exhibiting in January 2019.

Visitor research also showed that consumer satisfaction of the 2018 Show was below acceptable industry standards.

British Marine’s exhibition sales staff confirmed that an insufficient number of signed contracts of commitment to the 2019 show had been returned, in particular amongst boatbuilders and boat retailers.

Lack of signed contracts from this sector also affected confidence from other potential exhibitors, further reducing confirmed sign ups within the deadline.

The news comes just weeks after the resignation of British Marine CEO Howard Pridding and the departure in January of British Marine’s Chief Officer of Boat Shows, Murray Ellis, shortly after the 2018 London Boat Show.

“The decision to put the London Boat Show on hold is naturally very disappointing for the British marine industry,” said David Pougher, President of British Marine, “but British Marine and its board of directors has a responsibility to its members and we cannot commit to running a show which is clearly forecasted in its current format to be commercially unviable and will not meet customer satisfaction levels.

“By contrast, TheYachtMarket.com Southampton Boat Show produces a positive contribution to the industry, is well supported by exhibitors and visitors alike and is a highly successful event and we are now able to put all our energy, expertise and enthusiasm into this event.”

Bookings for the 2018 Southampton Boat Show in September are already well ahead of last year in terms of both ticket sales and exhibitor space, with British Marine now looking to increase the footprint of the show to meet exhibitor demand, both on the land and on the marina.

Although there are currently no plans to reinstate the London show at a later date, British Marine says that it is looking at alternative options.

“We are very aware that many companies in the marine industry look at a sales activity such as the London Boat Show in January as an excellent way to kick start the year, but times change and we must do the same in order to offer events which are affordable, accessible, welcomed and supported by the industry and its customers, and are financially viable for all involved.

“This is now the task for the British Marine team, its board, its members and valued advisors to seek new opportunities to support our industry,” concluded David Pougher.

The first London Boat Show was held at Olympia, before moving to Earls Court exhibition centre in 1957 where it remained for almost 50 years. In 2004 the show moved to ExCel in the docklands area of east London to take advantage of dockside access and the ability to display larger boats.

The first ExCel show was spread across both show halls and attracted over 200,000 visitors, but attendance and size have been in steady decline ever since with the show reverting to a single hall a few years later. By 2018 the duration had halved and attendance was down to just 52,000.