MD of National Boat Shows speaks out about start-up show

Andrew Williams, MD of National Boat Shows, the BMF-owned company that runs the London and Southampton boat shows, has spoken out for the first time about the start-up Earls Court Boat Show, claiming the event will hurt the industry if it goes ahead.

“I, and I think most of our exhibitors, believe that two London shows hitting the same audience would not be of benefit to the industry a month apart,” he said.

“The event could mean a potential loss to our audience of 20,000 people (some believe more). As is well known, all of the profits from London and Southampton are invested, through the BMF, into activity that benefits the whole marine industry. Any reduction in revenues, however caused, would either need to be made up elsewhere or BMF activities could be affected.”

The statement from Williams comes on the back of an announcement from the organisers of the Earls Court event, due to run from 30 November to 9 December, that more than 500 companies had applied to attend, which represents two thirds of the floor space in Earls Court 1 and 2.

More bad news for the BMF is that the chief sponsor of the Earls Court event, whiskey giant Whyte & Mackay, has committed £3.5m to the show.

But Williams once again defended the London Boat Show’s move to ExCeL, saying: “I have heard and read comments that refer to ‘the old days at Earls Court’. NBS did not move the show on a whim.

“Please do not forget that the attendance was declining significantly before we moved. In fact, if the show had remained at Earls Court an extension of the decline would have seen approximately 85,000 people attend a cramped 2007 show. “

NBS has also released results from an electronic questionnaire that was completed by more than 2000 people at this year’s London show.

The results show 81.8% of visitors polled said they would return to ExCeL next year, with 81.3% rating the show as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to just 59.9% in 2006.