Boat show holds its own in tough climate

Attendance is down at ExCeL, but not disastrously so for organisers

The London International Boat Show and the prospect of the worst recession in living memory were never likely to be happy bedfellows, but organisers at ExCeL can be pleased that the worst has not come to pass.

Attendance is down, yes, but not disastrously so. Some 47,564 people had come through the doors before Wednesday, a dip of 12% from 2008. The biggest disappointment was Sunday, which drew a crowd of 12,407, 16% down.

While significant, this hardly represents a slumping attendance, and the final visitor figure should still break through the important 100,000 barrier.

Of more concern to National Boat Shows, the organiser, should be the quiet aisles in the South Hall, which houses the motorboats, RIBs, and engines.

There’s no doubt that this section of the show feels slower than the North Hall, which possibly offers more of interest to the average boat show visitor – chandlery, clothing, and the Main Stage, the focal point of the show.

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More clearly needs to be done to pull people into the South Hall – perhaps some kind of feature stage, or the shifting of Suzuki’s excellent Indoor Harbour from the corner to the middle of the hall?

Whatever is done, the success of the Main Stage in the North Hall has to be replicated in the South Hall; anyone who has seen the stage’s feature attraction, Mermaid’s Tale, can not help but be impressed.

The acrobatics are almost worth the trip to ExCeL alone, and a good crowd gathers for the thrice-daily event, whose fantastical lights and imagery offer a nice bit of escapism.

This sense of otherworldliness is something organisers are hoping to capitalise on. Howard Pridding, executive director of the British Marine Federation, said: “It’s a good time to come to the show – there’s some good deals and it’s a great place to get away from the gloom.”



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