Statistics. Seen plenty of those. Attendance statistics are yet another items with which boat shows and press release writers play fast and loose. ‘Record numbers’ turn up at each and every boat show year after year. They are always quoted in tens of thousands, and king of the heap was the event in Korea some years ago which announced a visitor figure of 400,000 at its' first running You had to be there know that half the kindergarten population of the country had been bussed in and paraded through the show. A broker once told me that 'when an Asian boat show reports 10,000 visitors, it means about 1,000.
Singapore Yacht Show 2014. Acres of white.
The Singapore Yacht Show has been at some serious pains to produce real numbers, with a proper Pre-Registration and Registration system in place, and RFID tags to keep track of numbers of visitors and where they actually go. Over the first three days of the Singapore Yacht Show organisers registered just under 10,000 visitors. Mike Simpson, Group Managing Director of Simpson Marine said, 'we are pleased with the quality of visitors here at the show, and we fully expect to achieve more sales at the show this year than we did in 2013.' Tony Hambrook, Managing Director of first-time exhibitors Alloy Yachts, which is jointly presenting the show’s largest yacht, Vertigo, said, 'We have been very pleasantly surprised by the size and depth of the show and have met a number of qualified customers'. Filippo Ceragioli, International Marketing and Communications Manager of another first-time exhibitor, Rossinavi, said, 'Given the current global climate it makes sense for us to participate in this year’s show. Over the past three days we have met some interesting contacts and we would like to come back.'
For some reason, brokers and dealers score more points when they sell a boat at a show than when they sell one from the office any other day of the year. (We’ll have someone explain that and get back to you later). Saturday down on the pontoons at the Singapore Yacht Show, and the joint was jumpin’ from the moment the gates opened at 1400hrs. It’s the weekend. The sun was out, and there were plenty of boats to be looked at – but that’s not all.
Fashion shows, massively complicated watches and growly cars are as much a part of the scenery as the boats. It makes a lot of sense – if you are the process of buying a boat you are going to need a heavily bejewelled watch in order be on time to meet your broker, an elegantly dressed companion with which to enjoy the new purchase and a properly noisy vehicle with which to make an impression on arrival. At 1700hrs yesterday there was what may well have been Singapore’s all-time most expensive traffic jam as 50 or so Ferraris inched along the access road behind the Show pavilions towards Sentosa Cove Esplanade to be lined up and admired. I can do that bit. I can even be exceptionally haughty and declare that, 'no, I don’t like that one because…' It’s so easy to make huge decisions when you’re not going to be buying anyway! Of course the real point of showing off Ferrarris at a boat show is that they are part of an aspiration to ‘lifestyle’ and there are certain accroutrements that go with it.
For when the pressure gets all too much, and the pontoons become all too hot, boat Captains, senior Trade and Media Partners as well as exhibitors and members of the media (more properly known as Gentlemen of the Press) were able to retire to the Captain’s Lounge for a light lunch, a glass of crisp cold white, a reviving blast of air conditioning and some off-the-pontoons chit-chat. This is an amenity that we have not come across at an Asian boat show before, but apparently is quite de riguer at all the major European boat shows – Cannes, Genoa, Monaco and so on. Come to think of it, eating arrangements for the ‘workers’ at all other Asian boat shows that we know have ranged from over-priced and inedible to nonexistent. A greasy and expensive hot dog eaten whilst standing under a badly leaking sunshade in the pouring rain (work it out) does not compare with a pleasant upstairs restaurant, poached salmon, Greek salad, and a bumper of well-chilled Sancerre.
So hats off to the Captains’ Lounge sponsors MTU and AIMEX’s Superyacht Australia. After the lunch crowd, there was an evening opening nobly supported by SYS Spirits Supplier, Glenfiddich, and also La Maison du Whisky who were being very generous with the GlenDronach 12yo. Yum yum and thank you, Sirs.
If a lunch and a drink sound like lust another press junket, than it should be remembered (and every senior business executive knows this) that more serious business is transacted in bars and restaurants and o golf courses than ever gets signed off in the boardroom. The social arena is as important, if not more so, than the formal meeting room, the ‘workplace’. The London Boat Show’s Guinness Bar is famous (or infamous if you prefer) for keeping boat show visitors entertained, but equally importantly it is the place where exhibitors and customers go for ‘further discussions’. A decent bar is a facility sadly lacking for both social and business purposes at every boat show I have ever been to in Asia, without exception. Someone, take note, and you’ll be able to upgrade your event at a stroke.
And another thing… pontoon layout. If you have ever been frustrated by a long hot walk up Dock A only to find that really you wanted to be at the end of Dock B and are now faced with a U-shaped schlep to get there, then take a leaf out of the SYS book and join up absolutely everything with temporary walkways. Of course it means that you can’t extract your 60m Superyacht from the middle of the labyrinth and go for a quick spin – but you weren’t going to anyway, right? Across-the-board access to everything on the water is a real plus for visitors cruising the pontoons. And of course there is the added entertainment of watching young ladies in high heels negotiating the system!