Visitor numbers down at London Boat Show, but industry outlook improving

Another drop in attendance fails to take gloss off growth in revenues for boating sector

An improvement in fortunes for the UK’s leisure marine sector has failed to translate into an uplift in visitor numbers at the UK’s second biggest boat show after London posted another worrying attendance decline.

Final numbers put visitors to the show, which ended on Sunday, at 88,593. That’s down on 2013’s 93,327 and 14,000 behind 2012’s show, both of which were hit by snow.

But organisers are remaining upbeat, with Murray Ellis, MD of National Boat Shows (NBS), saying: “We are pleased with the success of the 2014 London Boat Show and have celebrated its 60th anniversary with some of the best brands in the marine industry.

“Thousands of boats, brands, technology, training and free interactive attractions have filled the nine days which has led to the positive feedback from both exhibitors and visitors. We are delighted with the high quality of visitors who came to this year’s Show and the number of exhibitors who have signed up to exhibit in 2015.”

One of the issues facing organisers is the dearth of big boat launches, with many yards – including Broom and Sealine – choosing the much bigger Dusseldorf event to showcase their new offerings.

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At MBY’s count, there were just six motor boats introduced to the UK market for the first time at London: the Sunseeker 75 Yacht, Fairline Targa 48 GT, Hardy 40DS, Jersey 30 and Interboat NEO. The Princess V48 Open also made its UK debut, but had been seen before at Cannes 2013.

The British Marine Federation, which owns NBS, will take comfort from a report released at the start of the event showing the UK’s leisure marine sector grew 1.7% in 2012/13, outpacing GDP growth with revenues hitting £2.905 billion.

The big bright spot in the new figures is international trade, which jumped 7.7% in 2012/13 to £1.080 billion after a painful 6.5% decline in 2011/12. Trade to Europe and North America led the recovery, leaping 9.6% and 9.9% respectively.

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