A new event is set to debut on Wednesday (10 January) as The London Boat Show 2018 opens its door at ExceL’s South Hall under a renovated format.
Established in 1955 and deemed an iconic marine leisure exhibition, the boating fair launches this year in a five-day set-up and supported by the all-new Boating & Watersports Holiday Show. Both events are being designed and managed by British Marine Boat Shows to ensure that the aims of each contribute to the marine industry as a whole.
This year’s outing is set for its biggest relaunch since moving to ExCeL London in 2004. Murray Ellis, chief officer of Boat Shows, told EN the reasoning behind these decisions and what can we expect.
Response to market trends
The British Marine boss said the results of the 2017 London Boat Show and subsequent research prompted the changes.
“The world has completely changed, and it was time for the boards and British Marine team to stop and think about what we needed to do with London,” Ellis said. “It looked great, as it always does, it remained important and relevant but it didn’t deliver sufficient quantity and quality of visitors to the very diverse market sectors represented by our exhibitors. Business was still done, loyal exhibitors and visitors still value the show, but our audience was diluted across a 10 day period.”
Ellis pointed out that it’s important to remember that the London Boat Show has a strong profile with the general public. “It provides a key platform to showcase the marine industry in the capital and the perfect venue to meet with government ministers and other key influencers,” he said.
British Marine also uses the event for essential activity such as our Meet the Buyer programme and association meetings, and it provides a financial contribution towards the broader work of British Marine on behalf of all members. “Its influence stretches well beyond what you see on the floor of the South Hall,” Ellis added.
Ellis told EN that proposals were drawn up and discussed in February last year at a board meeting. That enabled the nonexecutive directors, who are voted onto this board as the representatives of our membership, to make rapid decisions in time for the 2018 Show.
“Major boat shows around the world are typically shorter now, and by taking the decision to move to a duration of five days we can also change the start day further into January,” Ellis commented.
According to Ellis exhibitor feedback suggested this is the right course of action.
The five-day event will attract those who had previously been put off by the high impact of staffing and other costs associated with a 10-day run.
“Wednesday will now be our Public Preview and Press Day, then Thursday will keep its popular late night opening, building momentum into the weekend. All five days will be busy, positive and highly charged without a lull,” Ellis explained.
Once the timeframe was decided the thought was British Marine shouldn’t just settle for a London Boat Show delivered to the same formula over a shorter period but look to see how they could introduce new audiences that deliver different dynamics and markets.
According to Ellis, the original London Boat Show format was too broad to be able to do that effectively, and British marine wanted to guarantee that the right visitors identified with as many of the strands represented as possible.
“Consumer exhibitions in other markets are dealing with this by creating events within events,” Ellis said. “We looked at several sectors, such as fishing and diving which seemed obvious areas to explore, but found these markets weren’t big enough to sustain a show of their own.
“Watersports and boating holidays, however, are clearly growth sectors and really important ones given what we are learning about the next generations. Stand Up Paddleboarding, for example, is currently the fastest growing area in terms of getting people out onto the water. January is the busiest time for people booking holidays, making it the perfect time to promote sea charter, flotilla, inland hire and boating activity breaks.
“All can draw new exhibitors and new audiences, so we decided to create the Boating & Watersports Holiday Show.”
A show within the show
Ellis told EN that the events team also took into consideration the challenges posed by the broad breadth of the marine industry, from kayaks to superyachts.
“We need to deliver a show that’s right for exhibitors and attracts the right visitors. The London Boat Show will sit at the heart, but the Boating & Watersports Holiday Show will complement it and deliver something completely different. Both will provide additional routes to market and have opened opportunities for new sponsors, commercial partners and media partners.”
Ellis said The London Boat Show itself remains a strong and important event with demand from exhibitors and visitors. Its layout has been completely redesigned with the boats aligned right across the back wall so that they form the backdrop.
The boardwalk concept that has proven to be popular with many boat exhibitors has continued to be offered, providing a lower cost means of exhibiting compared to a completely bespoke stand.
“The bottom line is that the world is changing around us and we should expect that our shows must be agile and keep evolving to meet demands and expectations,” Ellis said.
“When you look at our boatbuilders and dealers we see how a continual stream of new models is essential to drive sales. I think a similar approach is needed for our events as well. We must maintain focus on the current generation of boat-owners but also tick boxes for millennials who want to come along, have a great time together and book an experience or buy some personal watersports equipment for example.
Ellis said exhibitors will have their part to play in this, by marketing the London Boat Show to their customer bases and by considering the most effective way of designing their stands for a five-day event.
“We understand that return on investment is important and many people are looking much more closely at their marketing KPIs than they did a few years ago. The shorter duration of the show will generate savings for most companies on staff accommodation and subsistence,” Ellis said.
British Marine said the response to the changes has been positive including some who will be returning to London after a break or exhibiting for the first time, have been attracted by the shorter duration.
“Reducing the duration from 10 days to five and adding new shows are bold changes but they demonstrate that we are committed to the future success of the London Boat Show. This is a breath of fresh air, and I am confident that we have created genuinely new opportunities for the industry,” Ellis concluded