Let the show(s) begin
As the boat show season looms, Charlie McCurdy, Chief Executive of Informa Exhibitions, talks about the business of boat shows…
Charlie McCurdy has over 25 years’ experience in event management and business-to-business media. Following Informa’s acqusition of Show Management in the US last March, besides the Monaco Yacht Show his responsibilities now extend to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Palm Beach International Boat Show and Yachts Miami Beach.
What did the acquisition of Show Management signify for Informa?
Informa Exhibitions has a strategy of focusing our efforts and capabilities globally on a handful of what we see as attractive industries, including superyachting. Building on the long-standing legacy of Informa’s oversight of the Monaco Yacht Show, we saw the Show Management business as a way of expanding our support of the yachting industry, and specifically the superyacht market, and we were able to conclude that acquisition earlier this year.
How do you want to see the FLIBS, Miami and Palm Beach grow or develop?
The very first thing we’re doing is to cement our position with our association partners and invest in the physical infrastructures so we have an attractive, effective and open-ended presence in those markets. You’ll have seen in Ft. Lauderdale that we’ve extended our contract for the lease on Bahia Mar, and we’ve also extended our lease with the city of West Palm Beach, so we have a long-term presence at both of those events (Miami is different in that we lease the waterfront from different landowners, but we see a long-tern position there too). We’re also investing something in excess of $7 million dollars in dockage, electrical, tent flooring, and so on. This may sound like humble stuff, but anyone who spends time at these events knows that the infrastructure has to be upgraded and that it makes a big difference to the experience for exhibitors and visitors.
How does Informa interact with buyers, builders and brokers to gather feedback on what they want or need?
It won’t come to you as any surprise to learn that brokers and builders in the superyacht segment are pretty free with their advice! We actually find this very helpful. At this point, the MYS set-up is a very well defined process, so we’re more focused on improving the experience in Florida where we’re working with various associations, including SYBAss, to create the kind of appropriately focused environment. FLIBS, for example, has many different components, but the more we can attract the right people to the right place for the right reason, the better for everyone. We are building on some initiatives that were already underway before our acquisition of Show Management, and we’re adding our own ideas that should start evidencing in November.
Can you give us some examples of suggestions received from builders or brokers?
I would say – and I would be surprised if they don’t echo this opinion – it’s the clear differentiation of the superyacht experience at the Florida shows. Obviously, MYS is a superyacht show and is very good at what it does. The Florida shows have grown more organically, and I’ve received comments that we’re acting on to provide a more focussed experience for superyacht exhibitors, brokers and builders so they get the right clientele coming by and fewer visitors who might admire the yachts, but are not in a position to buy or charter one.
How do the boat shows interact with the other 150-odd trade shows owned and managed by Informa Exhibitions?
Superyachting is a very distinct market and I think from the sales and marketing standpoint our shows are all different. That said, in terms of the execution and operational experience, we have wide experience of dealing with partners and subcontractors in the US, which means we can bring some new capabilities and fresh perspectives to the Florida shows.
Why do you think some ‘luxury’ shows that include yachts have failed to capture the imagination of the market?
I’ll be honest, I’m somewhat new to superyachting, so I can’t really comment on why these shows have failed. My dad was a naval architect and I’m a sailor [ed. James A. McCurdy was a noted designer of grand prix sailboats and cruiser-racers who was instrumental in developing the International Measurement System and competed in offshore races such as the Newport-Bermuda and Fastnet]. I grew up going to shipyards and I’ve done a lot of competitive sailing, but I hung up my Topsiders a while ago. My experience of sailing is helpful – I can relate to gross tonnage and lead times for builders, and so on – but I’m not going to tell Feadship how to build a yacht! What I can say is that a general rule of the exhibition business is that you want to go where the people want to be: if the yacht buyers are in Florida, you go there; if they assemble in Monaco, that’s where you want to be rather than in London or Hainan. Will it be like that in 10 years time? I don’t think anyone knows.
Is the sheer number of boat shows confusing for the market?
It’s pretty clear that the attendance across the Florida shows is quite distinct and clients are telling us there is a different crowd at each show. If it were the same people in three places, it would be a lot less valuable. I do think the situation in Miami has got more confusing since the NNMA [National Marine Manufacturers Association] show moved out from the Convention Center area. I don’t think that is in the interests of the industry: what used to be seen as a cohesive experience between the Convention Center and the waterfront, is now split between two distinct locations. I think consumers are confused by that, to be honest, and it’s up to us to clarify the relationship.
Does Informa have plans for further boat show acquisitions in the near future?
We have a strategy when opportunities arise to increase our presence in a market, and we are considering those as they come up in the boat show business as well. I would not rule it out at all. But Brazil has ongoing economic and political challenges, and there’s the issue of conspicuous consumption in China, which is affecting that market. For the time being, I’m very happy focussing on North American and the Mediterranean markets and developing those as the best experiences, rather than start stringing pearls around the globe and spreading ourselves too thinly. That kind of accumulation would not be a service to the industry.
In issue 182 of The Superyacht Report, we take a closer look at the boat show business and ask industry representatives whether the proliferation of events is representative of the industry’s needs and the state of the market. Subscribe to The Superyacht Report here.
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