Please select your home edition
T Clewring J-class

The onus is on Boat Show organisers- Get it right, or risk dying out

by Jeni Bone on 3 Sep 2012
Barcelona Boat Show .. ©
Boat shows dot the calendar all over the world, with countries hosting up to 10 (or in the case of China, planning as many as 20) major events per annum, aiming to push boat sales and aspiration towards the boating lifestyle in all its guises. But what should drive organisers' objectives and how can stakeholders measure their effectiveness? Jurij Korenc, President of the International Federation of Boat Show Organisers (IFBSO) reveals some of the contemporary challenges and the realities of staging a boat show.

Q. What should be the main objectives of a boat show?

Jurij Korenc: To deliver a profit or other benefit to the stakeholders (which may be a boating industry association, an independent exhibition organiser, an exhibition centre or a combination of interests), both now and in the future
We can’t really ascribe any loftier motives than this as the primary objective.

For a regional government it might be enough that the show provides direct employment for local people and also fills hotels, restaurants etc; for a BIA, the show might be the cash cow that provides the funding for the BIA’s activities, or a means of ensuring that the industry gets a more cost-effective shop window than would be provided by an outsider.

Q. What are the main factors that should be considered to judge a boat show 'successful'?

JK: In this respect, therefore, the measure of success is whether the show delivers the desired benefits in a sustainable manner. And there is the crux: sustainability.

Any street corner merchant can make a profit by fleecing customers, because he has a constant stream of new prospects coming along the pavement and because the fleeced customers never get to swap stories. Boat shows are right at the other end of the scale.

They only happen once a year, and their customers, whether exhibitors or visitors, are all too ready to gather round the village pump to discuss their experiences at the show. So the organisers have to get it right, this time and every time:
* for the exhibitors, who want qualified visitors with the money and the enthusiasm to buy;
* for the wider industry, which expects the show to develop the market by generating interest in boating in the non-boating public;
* for the visitors, who want to see, touch and compare great products, and talk with experts and fellow enthusiasts;
* for their sponsors, who expect the event to reflect their brand values and deliver the expected results to the target market;
* for the stakeholders, who all have their own objectives as mentioned.
That’s sustainability.

Q. The Australian marine industry is obsessed with boat show attendance as a measure of a boat show, judging large events as superior to smaller – is visitation a relevant factor for comparison?

JK: The boss of Sunseeker once said, 'I don’t care if only 100 people come to the boat show, as long as they’re the right ones for me'.

Since he was president of National Boat Shows, which owns the London and Southampton Boat Shows, at the time, the comment didn’t go down too well with the industry – but it served to make a point: that every exhibitor has his own target market.

The greatest divide is between the top brands like Sunseeker and the 'boatswain’s locker' type of exhibitor, for whom every visitor is a potential sale. Evidence suggests that the biggest names frequently do better when attendance falls, because there are fewer distractions both on stand and in the aisles from members of the public who wouldn’t be in the market for high-priced items anyway.

Unfortunately, though, total attendance remains the primary benchmark for the success of a show. An end-of-show release from an event that has suffered a fall in visitation might say something like 'the visitor numbers were down, but those who came were well motivated to buy…' or cite numerous exhibitors whose show 'exceeded expectations', but it’s rarely a convincing line.

Q. How are boat shows around the world combating falling visitation? Are these strategies working – both to drive attendance and boat sales?

JK: Boat show attendance and boat sales are closely correlated, not least because very few people ever buy a boat off a magazine page or website. They need to see it first, and shows remain the best platform to view and compare different craft. So what is true of building attendance is true of generating sales.

The boating industry faces both short-term problems in consumer confidence and credit availability, both of which are essential for its sales, and a long-term decline as other pastimes and interests stake a claim on the leisure dollar, pound or euro. An ageing demographic means that, in Germany for instance, three high-spending older boaters are lost to the industry every year for each new enthusiast that joins at entry level.

The difficulty at the moment is not how to grow attendance or sales, but how to arrest decline. We are seeing more intelligent use of closely targeted marketing efforts that make the most of the appropriate modern media for each need, and less of the blanket press advertising that used to be the mainstay of boat show marketing.

Using a variety of social media to create a buzz about boats and boating, the best shows are perhaps beginning to make some progress. But it’s going to be a long climb back before recovery turns to growth.

More at


IFBSO is the International Federation of Boat Show Organisers, founded in 1964 to help the development of boat shows and marine trade exhibitions worldwide. Today all member shows comply with the IFBSO Code of Excellence, ensuring that they meet the highest expectations of exhibitors and visitors.

Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82Mackay BoatsInSunSport - NZ

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line -The America's Cup settlement deal
The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the Arbitration Panel is not news The 'News' today that Emirates Team New Zealand has won their case before the America's Cup Arbitration Panel is not new - Sail-World reported the same story in the first and second weeks of September. The Hearing on the amount of compensation to be paid is yet to be held. So far we have been unable to discover a date if indeed one has been set. Maybe next year?
Posted on 11 Oct
Debriefing the 2016 J/70 Worlds with Winning Skipper Joel Ronning
I talked with Joel Ronning after the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds to learn about his team’s win at this high-level regatta. Since its inception in 2012, the J/70 has become the most popular One Design boat in decades, with 1,100+ boats sailing in myriad countries. Some 68 boats from 15 countries arrived on San Francisco Bay last week to determine bragging rights at the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds. I caught up with Joel Ronning to learn more about the Catapult team’s road to becoming the 2016 J/70 World Champions.
Posted on 5 Oct
Rio 2016 - America's Cup champ says Paralympic racing is closest ever
Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar keelboat class at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The regatta is being held in Guanabara Bay on three of the courses used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in August.
Posted on 13 Sep
Debriefing the Rio 2016 Olympics with Team USA’s Helena Scutt
I talked with Team USA’s Helena Scutt to hear about her Olympic experience, and to learn more about her post-Rio plans. The 49erFX was introduced to Olympic circles when it replaced the Women’s Match Racing event following the 2012 Games. Not surprisingly, it drew high-performance sailors for the Rio 2016 Olympics, including Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt. While Henken and Scutt were Olympic first-timers, they put on a strong show. I caught up with Scutt to hear more about her Olympic experience.
Posted on 8 Sep
A Q&A with Peter Bresnan ONE Palma’s founder and director
Sail-World interviewed ONE Palma’s founder Peter Bresnan to learn about the company’s partnership with McConaghy Boats For the past eight years, ONE Palma (formerly OneSails Spain) has been building a strong name, first as a sailmaker and later with refit work. Recently, ONE Palma and McConaghy Boats-legendary boatbuilders who have crafted some of the planet’s fastest sailboats-entered a business partnership. I caught up with Peter Bresnan, ONE Palma’s founder and director, to learn more about this new direction.
Posted on 2 Sep
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ train late on the Waitemata Harbour
Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. The team were sailing their recently launched AC45 Surrogate test boat which features an articulated rudder gantry - taking the AC45 close to the geometry of the AC50 to be used in the 2017 America's Cup.
Posted on 1 Sep
Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug