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Boat Shows - Provide touch and feel and Internet takes worldwide

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 26 Feb 2013
Show Halls - RYA Dinghy Show RYA http://www.rya.org.uk
Later this week the world’s largest dinghy boat show, the RYA Dinghy Show will open at London’s Alexandra Palace.

On Saturday and Sunday March 2nd and 3rd some 200 exhibitors will be showing their wares to the walk in audience.

But many will consider there is an Elephant in the Room – the Internet.

Over the last decade the Internet has changed the world in ways that seem almost surreal.

We listen to radio stations from anywhere in the world and download the latest movies in minutes.

We buy online from all around the world, with many high street retailers in serious trouble.

The classified sections of newspapers, once rivers of gold, have almost dried up and newspaper and magazine circulations continue to plummet worldwide.

So across all business sectors, the graphs are studied to see if the Internet is turning the world upside down,

World-wide attendances over the last decade to Trade Shows and Exhibitions are down 15-25%, largely because show attendance is no longer needed to gain information, much more readily available online.

This is not just a British issue, it’s happened to the Dusseldorf and Genoa Shows, Sydney International Boat Show, The Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, the Annapolis Boat Show and Fort Lauderdale Boat Shows, in fact we cannot think of a long established Boat Show that has not experienced the same audience decay.

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Yet once again event organisers, exhibitors and marine media will be focusing on attendance numbers, as the most significant measure of the RYA Dinghy Show’s success but this emphasis ignores what such shows are really about.

The main attendance driver is the opportunity for touch and feel and talk for that reason trade shows, while losing visitor numbers, are gaining in the quality of contacts.

Show visitors these days are not just looking for information, mostly they have that already and the questions exhibitors are asked certainly reflect that.

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What show visitors want is to touch, feel and talk... The talking part is more often to gauge the ethos of the organization they might be dealing with down the course.

So whether it’s a Dinghy Class organization, a Sailing School or a boat builder, the product presentation, the ability for the Show visitor to get a feel for the boat and the friendly smile, after being asked the same question for the 300th time are all part of the consumer´s decision making mix.


So the fact that the 2006 RYA Dinghy Show had 11,549 attendees and the 2011 Show had just over 8,500 is not cause for wrist slashing.

What must be understood is that now-a-days, while the Internet has meant 15-25% of the once upon a time visitors are finding the information they need on line, is that as well as the touch and feel on the ground audience, overall the impact of the 2013 Show via feet on the ground, via major sailing websites, via Twitter and Facebook will be much more significant than ever before.

This month some 220,000 Sail-World readers for instance, will read detailed coverage of the event with news, interviews etc. That kind of coverage volume just did not exist back in 2006.

So rather than bemoaning the shrinking show visitation, it’s time to congratulate the RYA, the longtime sponsors Suzuki and Yachts & Yachting, the media and to all the exhibitors and dinghy enthusiasts who together to make this such an important event on the UK and European and world boating scene.

We too trust that it will not be snowing, as it was during the London Boat Show, and that visitors come in droves, but for those who don’t, we know they will discover lots about the event and the exhibitors online.

See you there, or follow the event online with us.



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