While life in the vast prison that London has become under lockdown conditions is pretty grim right now, there is one, rather unexpected, benefit that has emerged from these draconian restrictions on movement.
Thinking back over the previous decade, ordinarily, around this time of year, I’d be suffering from a serious case of spring show season fatigue, symptoms which also tend to rear their ugly head between September and November. In short, the proliferation of boat shows and industry events scheduled in the Spring and Autumn is excessive for an industry whose final output is c. 150 units a year, and with a fleet of only c. 4,500 yachts that have actually been used by their owners over the last five years.
Among all the horror of Covid, both human and economic, one of the few positives is that the industry has had a brief but stark moment to reflect on its practices. And perhaps, one of the conclusions it will draw is that too much money is being wasted on unnecessary shows, press junkets, fam trips and the like.
Now, don’t get me wrong; all of the above have their place. As with anything in life, something justifies its value if it is done well.
Take boat shows – they are a wonderful setting in which to exhibit our industry’s wares. Yes, most business is done via private viewings throughout the year, but there is still much to be said for comparing the work of the world’s shipyards, side by side, in water, on the docks of Monte Carlo, Fort Lauderdale. Apart from chartering or being an invited guest on a friend’s yacht, they are, in fact, one of the few tangible touchpoints for those exploring our industry which is why, as an aside, the intangible nature of the new wave of virtual boat shows makes me question whether there will ever be any sort of ROI for ‘exhibitors’ (VR is a useful tool for boosting the efficacy of a design process but far less so for facilitating a seven-star experience.)
However, boat shows should remain just that – the showing of boats. If you turn away from the rollicking fun being had in the boats at these shows, the forlorn individuals on the stands and in the tents paint a vastly different picture. Exhibiting at a boat show is a very different experience if you’re selling lifting equipment or catalytic reductors. These sectors of the industry would be far better placed under the grey November skies of Amsterdam, at METSTRADE, where the procurement professionals are there to purchase such equipment and services
Likewise, I’ve sat in on some extremely engaging and productive online press conferences and webinars. But I have also sat through a lot of white noise, created for the sake of being visible and being heard. And it was the same pre-lockdown; the number of press events I would attend where the majority of people took the same USB stick to write up the same story – it made me question why anyone bothered with the expense of travelling…
As I said, there is a place for press trips, for shows and for everything else, but only if it serves a purpose and adds value to the wider pot. This also applies to us, the media. Our team is currently sifting through mountains of content, much of which is issued by comms team purely so that they can get their name up in lights. Our editors have to filter through a lot of this to identify the relevant, pertinent and constructive content. It means there is less of it than you might find elsewhere, but I would estimate the vast majority of it adds value to the days of those who read it. At The Superyacht Group we made the decision to limit our attendance at boat shows to the core staples, while we have also reduced the number of fam trips and press events we attend, largely because we value the depth and candour that is achieved by meeting with companies and stakeholders on an individual basis.
I hope this figurative line in the sand produces some good, from all of the bad we’ve endured. And I hope some of that relates to us all rethinking and revising how we approach things and seizing the opportunity that this awful event in history has presented.
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