The flavour of the Korea International Boat Show has changed. A marine industry friend once told me that told me that he judged the seriousness of an Asian boat show as being in inverse proportion to the number of exhibitors’ stands displaying radio controlled helicopters and sunglasses. This year, there are none at KIBS.
Maybe it is the change of venue from Tando Harbour, Jeong-gok to the palatial surroundings of KINTEX, the Korea Trade and Exhibition Centre, on the outskirts of Seoul. Somehow the show seems to have ‘settled down’. Walking around the exhibition hall today there were in evidence fewer of the big marques that we have come to expect to see at Asian boat shows, and more exhibitors of a ‘practical nature’ in what one overseas visitor described succinctly as 'an emerging market’'.
At the first KIBS, in 2008, boating as a leisure pursuit in Korea was almost invisible, and there was little or no evidence of a marine leisure industry. The professed intent of a boat show was to offer to Korea something new to do with the (then) recently-legislated two day weekend, and to provide a sort of example to potential marine industry start-ups.
At that time, some observers expressed doubt that the entire country was unlikely to embrace ‘messing about in boats’ overnight, and even if they did so it was unlikely to be through the medium of 80’ motor yachts. This has proven to be true, but six years down the line – judging by the show stands – Korea and the Koreans are seriously interested in getting out of their apartments and into the countryside, away from the city and onto the coast, getting their shoes muddy and – yes – getting their feet wet.
KIBS this year incorporated Korea Dive Expo, and also includes a substantial section of ‘camping cars’ and caravans – both of which attracted enormous interest. Add in the ATV bikes, the kayaks, the ‘tackle and tinnies’, the stand-up paddle boards, the inflatable kiddie boats, a whole range of novelty boats (see-through canoes – ‘go snorkelling without getting wet’) and even a baby hovercraft, and you get the distinct feeling that not only is KIBS is becoming an ‘outdoors show with a strong nautical flavour’, but also that the goods on show are a better offering for a clientele just becoming acquainted with the water than some of the luxe sub-superyachts we have seen in recent years. That’s a good thing, by the way. It’s a touch of realism where an emerging market is concerned.
There are now 19 operational marinas in Korea, 9 more in build, and a total of 45 planned. Having brought the Gimpo Marina almost on line this time last year, Everett Babbitt of Bellingham Marine told us that their Korean partners, CKIPM Marine, are close to commissioning another project, this time at Incheon, near Seoul’s international airport. Bellingham/CKIPM have been present at every KIBS. 'We are delighted that the show has moved to KINTEX,' said Babbitt. 'It’s been twice the show we’ve ever had before. Regardless who you are talking to, and regardless of where a project might be – or might be planned – ‘the office’ is in Seoul. We work on paper, not on water, and here we are right on Seoul’s doorstep so yes, we are very happy with the change of venue. When we came to KIBS in 2008 it was strictly in a go-see capacity. I used to be pretty sceptical of the ‘build it and they will come’ approach in Korea, but we’ve been building, and they seem to be coming! We are very happy to have played a substantial part in the development of Korea’s marina infrastructure, and look forward to contributing further. We never intended to show up at KIBS once and once only, getting involved in the Korea marine infrastructure was always a longer-term plan. Potential clients with whom we have had discussions over the last couple of years are now getting close to starting their projects. Patience is paying off.'
The last day of the Korea International Boat Show 2013 is at KINTEX tomorrow, 02 June.
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia
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4:14 PM Sat 1 Jun 2013GMT
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