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Sail-World Asia Newsletter

14/08/2018


Boat Show Sagas: too many, or too few

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Guy Nowell - Red 728

HK International Boat Show, aka Marina Cove Boat Show. Presently on hold. - photo © Guy Nowell


Dear Recipient Name

Boat Shows have wandered into the Asian boating news of late. Hong Kong doesn’t have one at the moment (although there may be one in the pipeline) and Phuket is suffering a glut, despite well-announced statements to the contrary. What’s going on?

For the last several years there have been two boat shows in Hong Kong - the Hong Kong Gold Coast Boat Show, and the Hong Kong International Boat Show, otherwise known as the Marina Cove boat show. Both events were run by the management of the respective marinas, and both were substantially lacklustre given the size and profitability of the Hong Kong boating market.

The Gold Coast event, which has in the past described itself with great hubris and even greater inaccuracy as “Asia’s biggest boat show” fell off the calendar a couple of years ago while the marina undergoes renovation and (maybe) expansion. “We’ll be back,” was the last we heard. Good intentions are one thing, but actually getting through the morass of red tape floated by goodness knows how many HK Government departments is quite another.

The Marina Cove boat show is on hold while the local leisure marine industry waits to see what happens with the newly-announced Hong Kong International Cruise and Yachting Festival, slated for November this year.

We have seen the brochure, but are not convinced. Cruise ships at the white elephant otherwise known as the Hong Kong Cruise Terminal – all very good. But a very expensive (for the exhibitors) boat show at China Merchants Wharf at the westernmost end of Victoria Harbour; quite another thing. China Merchants Wharf, possibly the worst place to hold a boat show in Hong Kong, is owned by China Merchants Group, a PRC state-owned corporation. The HK Cruise & Yacht Industry Assoc is the offspring of the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association, a mainland government think-tank.

Plans for the forthcoming show extravaganza (http://icyfhk.com/) are vague to say the least. “Lighting up both sides of the harbour” has been mentioned, but that seems a little unlikely: it’s just under 6nm from Kai Tak to China Merchants by water, and the frontage of Victoria Harbour add up to more than 20km waiting to be ‘lit up’. Unless this event starts to show more skeleton than imagination, Hong Kong quite probably won’t be seeing a boat show at all this year. An odd state of affairs for the city that has the highest concentration of leisure craft in South East Asia (Japan excluded).

And then there’s Phuket, which seems to have quite the opposite problem: a glut of boat shows which continually dilute the business, much to the annoyance of the industry players who would much rather see one, good, boat show.

First there was PIMEX, at the Royal Phuket Marina, started in 2004 by Andy Dowden and Grenville Fordham, and then sold to Informa before eventually returning to Dowden’s control. In 2016 the status quo was disrupted when Andy Treadwell (ex-Informa, ex-proprietor of PIMEX) created the Thailand Yacht Show with a wedge of Thai government money and the declared intention of showcasing Phuket (and by association Thailand) as the hub of yachting in Asia. “Yachting” on this occasion meaning “superyachts.” The idea was that a massive relaxation of regulations covering the chartering of foreign-owned and foreign-flagged superyachts would be a catalyst to provide for exponential growth in the leisure boating industry of Thailand.

So now there were two boat shows in Phuket – PIMEX at RPM, and TYS at Ao Po Grand Marina. Back in 2011, Andy Treadwell had also started the Singapore Yacht Show (at One°15 Marina, Sentosa), which quickly supplanted the existing Boat Asia show – so no doubt many, or some, industry observers were hoping that one or other of the Phuket shows would, like Longfellow’s Arabs, “fold their tents… and silently steal away.” Instead, in 2017, PIMEX teamed up the Burlot brothers of Asia Rendezvous, to inject some more “lifestyle” into the RPM show in the form of the Phuket Rendezvous.

That arrangement lasted just one season, and in early 2018 a new alliance was announced between Thailand Yacht Show and the Phuket Rendezvous, leaving PIMEX looking to be pretty much out in the cold.

Not so! The latest press release from Royal Phuket Marina announces the resurrection of PIMEX, now called the Phuket Yacht Show, and aiming to deliver “what the industry wants – a centrally located single show concept.” Or in plain English: just one boat show in Phuket. Gulu Lalvani, Chairman of RPM, declared firmly that “the Phuket Yacht Show will be the only yacht show in Phuket.”

Thailand Yacht Show. Government money. Now aligned with the Phuket Rendezvous, and looking for a home. - photo © Phil Blake
Thailand Yacht Show. Government money. Now aligned with the Phuket Rendezvous, and looking for a home. - photo © Phil Blake

Almost simultaneously, the Thailand Yacht Show & Rendezvous declared its hand, “following calls from the industry to hold fewer and more well-organised yacht shows, after many felt the industry was stretched too thinly over several competing shows.” Precisely.

The obvious answer to this protracted chest beating is for the Thai Marine Business Association to corral its members into a cool dark room equipped with a bar, and lock the doors until such time as there’s white smoke coming out of the airconditioning vents to announce that a consensus has been reached as to which show the industry wishes to support. It’s as easy as that. Everyone says that they want only one show, so choose, dammit! Both shows can’t be “the only show in Phuket.”

In the meantime the Hong Kong boating industry players also need to get together to make sure that there is a decent boat show in Hong Kong - and it is held in an appropriate setting, not a patch of nasty, lumpy, water at the forgotten end of Victoria Harbour.

Gentlemen, place your bets.



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