Domenic Genua Marketing & Events Manager Boating Industry Association of NSW describes the industry’s premier event, in the current climate, covering the issues, strategy, exhibitor feedback, visitor observations and plans for the path ahead.
In preparation for the 2011 Sydney International Boat Show, in no way did we underestimate the challenges the industry was facing. Economic uncertainty, grey imports, the diminishing leisure dollar and the public finding overseas holidays an enticing option were just some of the hindrance’s our industry was facing.
Never the less, the show is the largest event for our industry nationally and it was imperative that it was approached with good planning and confidence. With so many competing industries jockeying around for those available dollars, we needed to tackle it in the best way possible to ensure the industry received its fair share.
Let me say it was not easy. Consider the media. Firstly, our PR coverage was excellent. The opening day included 6 live crosses from Channel 9’s Today Show, Peter Harvey from Channel 9 News covering the show for the 11 am, 4.30 pm and 6 pm news. Channel 10 news did a live weather cross.
Opening day also saw us on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. It continued on the Friday with 6 live crosses to Channel 7’s Sunrise Program, Channel 10 did a live cross for the 7 PM project. 2GB broadcast live from the show with Ben Fordham and Ross Greenwood. Sydney Weekender did their ½ hour special that aired on the Saturday night.
All this complemented with a special 20 page Sydney Morning Herald lift out the weekend prior. Every marine publication in Australia in some way previewed the show and supported the industry by encouraging the public to visit.
But as I noted, it was not easy. The economic conditions, consumer sentiment and every other negative factor were top of mind when the media wanted to talk about the boat show. Don’t get me wrong, not all the media were looking for a headline, but some certainly were. And this was a challenge.
Our response had to be positive without being unrealistic, and as such, we carried the line that 'whilst we were not seeing the sales that we were 10 years ago, we are no worse off than any other industry. We were holding our own, and recreational boating remained highly desirable on people’s minds when it came to their leisure activities'.
I was even asked by one journalist 'What will happen to the Australian boating industry if the United States default on their debt on Tuesday'? How could I answer that?
So how did we go?
As Roy said, 'Exhibitors unquestionably put their best foot forward. Displays were first class, attitudes were positive and many had the confidence to use the show as a springboard to release many new products and technology.
'As a show organiser, our job is to create opportunities by delivering a qualified audience who are interested in purchasing products or who have the desire to learn more about how they can participate in the recreational boating lifestyle'.
And so it was. Exhibitors did arrive and put their best foot forward and this ensured that the Sydney Show presented our audience with the most alluring display of products and services to entice existing boaties to keep boating, and new boaties with numerous options to enter the boating lifestyle.
To complement this, our offer to visitors had to again be strong. Our research, as well as that of other major shows around the world, showed that visitors want more than the standard boating displays. They want this complemented with a portfolio of education and entertainment.
As such, we again gathered the resources to deliver a package of activities, each with the objective of 'educating and entertaining' our audience into wanting to do more boating.
Our activities included, the Nautilus Fishing Clinic, The Better Boating Lounge, the free Discover Boating Harbour Tours, the Walk of Fame, the Historic Boat Displays, the Marine Precinct Education Centre, the Musto Fashion Extravaganza, cooking demonstrations with Club Marine’s Bart Beet, the SBA’s Boat Building Competition, the Berkley Evinrude Team Series Grand Final as well as the people’s Photography Competition complemented with a fabulous exhibit by renowned photographer Andrea Francolini.
Visitors were marginally down on 2010 by 6%, and it maybe some time before we return to the hefty numbers the show was recording pre 'GFC'.
The Sydney market was the only group that remained relatively steady with only a 2% decrease in visitors.
All the other regions showed a larger decrease in visitors with country NSW down 9%, interstate visitors down 10%, visitors from ACT down 24% and overseas visitors down 43%.
Total attendance for the show was 73,158.
What is interesting is the correlation between boat show visitors, and the final number of new vessel registrations in NSW each year. As yet, we have not been able to work out if it is coincidental, but the overarching feeling is that there is a link.
We obviously do not have final rego numbers for 2011, but the following is a snap shot of the trend for the last few years.
Running the Sydney Show is a costly exercise.
Fortunately, we have been able to limit our exhibition rate increases to only two in the last five years.
During this difficult economic period the Board decided that the annual cost increases of running the show would be absorbed by the association (using the associations reserves) to provide some respite to industry.
Each year we send exhibitors a questionnaire. The feedback we receive is important in the development of current and future plans. We need your feedback and guidance. As I write, this questionnaire is with exhibitors and we would appreciate you taking the time to complete the document. You can be assured your comments will be delivered to the Board, unedited, in their entirety.
On each alternate year, we conduct visitor exit surveys. This information gives us a great snap shot about our audience and helps to maximise the return of our marketing expenditure.
The following are some interesting excerpts from the research conduct by Micromex during the 2011 show. The selection of prospective respondents was by randomly approaching visitors as they exited the halls within the Exhibition Centre. The marine industry was excluded from the survey.
The data was collected, collated and analysed in Micromex’s office using SPSS statistical analysis software. Micromex advise that a sample size of 600 visitors provided a maximum sampling error of plus or minus 4.1% at 95% confidence. Awareness of the Marina display
52% of respondents had already visited the Marina display outside and 41% planned to visit the display later. Primary reason for the trip if not from Sydney
81% of the respondents who were not from the Sydney metropolitan area gave ‘to visit this Show’ as their primary reason for visiting Sydney. Previous visits to the Show
75% of respondents had visited the Show previously, which is equal to 2009. 49% of respondents had visited the Show in 2010, whilst 25% were first time visitors. There is no statistically significant change in the frequency of attendance, when compared with the previous research. Comparing this Boat Show to the last Show they visited
When those who had previously visited the Boat Show were asked to rate this Show compared to the last one they visited, we found that:
37% rated this Show as ‘a little better’ or ‘much better’
55% thought that they were both about the same
7% rated this Show ‘a little worse’ and 1% ‘a lot worse’
The mean ratings indicate that in 2011, respondents were significantly more likely to believe that the Show had improved compared with the research conducted in 2009. How they became aware of the Show
In this prompted question, we attempted to establish the means by which the respondents primarily became aware of the Show.
The most significant means of becoming aware of the Boat Show was through television (32%), newspaper (25%), magazine (24%), radio (23%), invitation (13%) and the Internet (11%).
Comparisons with 2009 identify that overall marketing cut through has increased in 2011, particularly in the areas of television, magazine and radio. Main reasons for attending the Show
The main reasons for attending this Show were for general interest (68%), to see new products (36%), to buy other products (23%) or to buy a boat (19%). Length of time spent at the Show
41% of respondents intend to spend all day at the Show, 40% intend to spend half a day and 12% intend to spend 1-2 hours. Comparisons with previous years indicate that the time visitors spend at the Show is trending upwards. Planning their visit to the Show
The research identifies that visitor planning is diverse, with no singular time period predominant. Critically though, 54% of the respondents are identified as planning their visit within one week of the Show. Comparisons with previous years identify little change in planning habits, except for respondents who state that they always attend, which is trending upwards.
Rating of specific activities
All of the prompted Boat Show activities were rated highly, with no more than 4% of respondents applying negative ratings to any of the prompted activities. Purchasing intentions
42% of respondents intended to purchase something at this Show, which was a similar result to previous years. The main areas of interest for purchasing were:
Boating accessories 44% Decreased from 2009 (51%)
Fishing gear 28% Increased from 2009 (18%)
Boat 23% Increased from 2009 (18%)
Safety equipment 17% Increased from 2009 (12%) Sourcing information on boating
Magazines (47%), the Internet (43%) and word of mouth (32%) are the primary sources used to obtain information on boating.
Analysing these outcomes across the 4 research periods, 2005-2011, we identify that the sourcing of information from boat shops is declining as is the sourcing of information from word of mouth and magazines (despite a spike in 2011).
Despite experiencing a decline in sourcing information from magazines in 2007 and 2009, the popularity of this medium has regained strength in 2011.
The sourcing of information via the Internet is increasing. Particular boating interests
In this prompted question, we found that fishing (51%), family cruising (38%) and sailing (34%) were the boating types omost interest to respondents. These results are statistically similar to previous years. Enthusiasm regarding boating activities
In this prompted question, we found that 59% of respondents classified themselves as regular boaters, while 34% were occasional boaters. These results were statistically similar to previous years Overall opinion of the Show
The overall opinion of the Show was high, with 80% of respondents stating that the Boat Show met most of their expectations, 17% that the Show exceeded their expectations and only 4% that the Show had met none of their expectations Knowledge of the BIA
Perceived knowledge of the BIA is moderately high (57%), although some confusion surrounds what the initials stand for, with 29% believing it to be ‘Boating Industry Australia’. Demographic profile
The predominant visitor age groups were 35-44 (19%), 45-54 (27%) and 55-64 (30%)
The predominant occupation categories were professional/manager (33%), retired (16%), owner/proprietor (13%) and tradesperson (12%)
The respondents combined household incomes were high, with 33% in the category of ‘over $150,000’ and 29% ‘$100,001-$150,000’.
Overall, respondents expressed a high level of satisfaction with their visit to the Sydney International Boat Show in 2011. This satisfaction is confirmed by:
High satisfaction ratings with specific Show activities
The high percentage whose expectations in attending were met or exceeded
The high percentage who believed the Show had improved from their previous visit
The calibre of respondents who participated in this survey was very high, with a large percentage having a combined household income of over $100,000, being between the age of 35 and 64 and a professional/manager.
The data also indicates that purchasing intentions at the Show were very strong, with 42% of respondents intending to purchase something at the Show and 23% stating that their main reason for attending was to ‘buy a boat’.
Micromex has conducted biennial visitor research at the Sydney International Boat Show since 2005. Specific comparisons with the research from 2009 identified a perceived improvement in the Boat Show across a variety of criteria. In particular, in 2009, compared with previous years, visitors were less likely to believe the Show had improved since their last visit. In 2011 this result has improved significantly, with 37% rating this Show as ‘a little better’ or ‘much better’ than the previous Show they visited and only 7% rating this Show ‘a little worse’ and 1% ‘a lot worse’.
This is a strong result, especially when compared with 2009, and is a positive indicator of Show health.
To complement this research we collect post codes at ticket point of sale. Here we are able to get a sample size of over 12,000.
Whilst the ticket purchase transactions are much greater that the 12,000 post codes, many of the post codes are unrecognisable or simply the ticket purchaser does not wish to give out that information.
The Sydney Boat Show is only one of the many activities that the BIA of NSW runs each year. Whilst the 2012 show dates have already been pencilled in, August 2nd to sixth, we still have many projects we are working on to continue to sell the boating lifestyle stories. We have Try Crewing Day (September 11), Try Boating Day (October 16), Try Sailing Day (November 6), at least another 8 Sydney Weekender boating lifestyle stories to record, these just to name a few.
Whilst we know business is somewhat challenging, our resolve is to maintain the momentum to ensure we rightly achieve our fair share.
Bob Wonders hit the carpet tiles and timber boards to get feedback from exhibitors and punters regarding the show. He asked ‘What did you think of the 2011 Sydney International Boat Show? This is WHAT THEY SAID:
'We recognise the current economy is not helping us, but we came away well satisfied.' – Bill Barry-Cotter (Maritimo)
'I’d have to say we went in with low expectations, but the end result exceeded our expectations by a long way. Interest was good, particularly in fibreglass, with strong inquiries for our Cruise-Craft range. Move in and move out was the best it has ever been.' – Jon Hunt (Hunt’s Marine)
'As the old saying goes, wouldn’t miss it for quids. I guess you’d call me a regular, been to most of the shows here at Darling Harbour and even a few at the old showgrounds. This is the best place to keep up with all the latest technology, that’s for sure.' – Show visitor Doug, Killara.
'Throughout the five days of the show, the general sentiment of the crowd was one of reserved confidence. Our new brand, Belize Motoryachts, created a lot of interest among existing boat owners as well as new boaters keen to see another brand entering the somewhat dominated local market. My partner Wesley Moxey and I have been buoyed by the comments and enthusiasm to experience the new Belize 52 by the many prospective clients when it arrives shortly in Sydney.' – Lee Dillon (Luxury Design Motoryachts)
'I’m actually here to buy a present for a mate. I fish regularly with a neighbour who owns a Riviera and on a recent trip we lost one of his fenders. I figured this would be the place to perhaps pick up a couple of new ones and keep in good with my mate' - Show visitor Ray, Pennant Hills.
'From our point of view, the show was better than expected. We downsized our operation dramatically, concentrating on our major core brands, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Sea Al, Zodiac and Mercury. Interest from the public was quite good as is the resultant follow-up leads generated. The boat buying public has clearly warmed to buying boats and engines in anticipation of a great boating season.
My niece Caitlin Short, 22, had her first show as a sales team member and she excelled, which thrilled us all as she embarks on a new career in the boating industry. Move in and move out went smoothly under the watchful eye of the BIA. I also believe that the organisation and display at SIBS demonstrated a true show of excellence of our industry and which we are so proud to be associated with.' – Kylie Short (Andrew Short Marine).
'This is my 10th visit to the show. I’m a keen fisherman and boater, currently skipper of a two-year-old Quintrex and spend as much time out on the harbour as I can manage. I like getting along to the show, meet up with like-minded mates, have a beer or three and see what’s new on the market. Always have an eye out for a present for my boat, too.' - Show visitor Peter, Meadowbank.
'We were delighted with the show. While not besieged by buyers there were certainly some around and we had positive inquiries and a couple of deposits as well. The show itself was impressive with strong across the board displays and a good balance of power and sail. Of course, there are more and more imported boats every year, very obvious to all. I know some Aussie boat builders who don’t attend because they know they just can’t compete against the imports with the current level of the A$. Tough, but a fact of life. We introduced our new Corsair range at the show and discussed our future plans and how we were going to prosper and grow the company despite the worst economic conditions I’ve ever experienced in the industry.' – Richard Ward (Seawind Catamarans)
'I was here yesterday and I’m here again today and if you think I’m a keen boater you’d be dead right. Manage to get here most years it’s one of those weekends I look forward to. I own a Haines Hunter 2100, a bit long in the tooth, but still a goer. We ski, fish and scuba dive from it and love the lifestyle it affords us.' – Show visitor Mike, Caringbah
'This venue is near enough to perfect for a major boat show. I guess I’m still something of a newcomer, I think this is my third, but I really enjoy coming to Sydney. Having a marina and an exhibition hall complex, surrounded by hotels, restaurants and a major city, all within walking distance makes this show something special.' - Bonnie Frenkel -International Sales Director, Regal Marine, Florida.
'I’ve been up here on business from Melbourne, although I’m a born and bred Sydney boy. Been living down south for six-years now, but it’s always a pleasure to set my eyes on our harbour again. I’ve been to the Sydney show quite often and plan on buying a boat as soon as I’m transferred back home, probably towards the end of next year. So my main purpose is to check out what’s around, what prices and the like and there’s no better place to do it than right here.' - Show visitor Murray, South Yarra, Melbourne (temporarily!)
'I’m here to meet a few mates, have lunch and check out the latest in boats. We’re a mob of regular Sydney Harbour boaters and we always get together at every Sydney show to see what’s happening. The show certainly looks the part, with all the newspaper talk about the harsh financial times I thought it might be something of a non-event. Well, I reckon it looks as good as it ever has.' -Show visitor Ralph, Strathfield.
'We had a steady flow of admiring visitors inspecting our New Ocean 68 Flybridge making her debut. As word spread over the weekend there was regularly a long line of admirers waiting up to 30 minutes to get aboard and check her out. I’ve been to more boat shows than I’d care to admit, but I’ve never seen so many people patiently waiting their turn to get on board. We also released details of the new 54 Flybridge that will arrive for next year’s show. Following the show, we have five pending contracts across the new 54, 65 and 68 models.' - Keith Hanson (New Ocean Motoryachts)
'Mate, I’d like to own a boat, but sadly I can’t afford one at the moment. In a way, I guess I come to boat show to dream about what may be, some day. Whatever, I enjoy the day’s outing and later on I’m meeting up with the wife for lunch. I think the Darling Harbour locality is terrific for a boat show.' – Show visitor Ben, Tamarama.
'In a word, fabulous! We were very busy and can at this stage confirm six boats sold, about 50-50 Regal and Chris-Craft and plenty more follow-ups to take care of. We were not only busy, we had a great time with a 1930’s style fashion parade keeping the crowds turning up and as icing on the cake we received the #1 International Dealer of the Year Award from Regal Marine. Earlier, we received another award from Regal Marine, for joining the company’s Million Dollar Club in terms of sales. Although we recognised that show attendance was marginally down, there was certainly quality there, brilliant, in fact.' – Lee Poulson (Premier Marine)
'Mate, to put it bluntly, I wouldn’t miss a Sydney boat show. Don’t ask how many I’ve been to, I’ve never kept count. I was in the RAN for 12-years and just like hanging around the boating scene. I’m in a partnership with a friend and we own a Mustang 2200 which we’ve had now for quite a few years. I think it’s on its third engine. But I like boats so much I even enjoy working on it. The Sydney show is a great place for people like me, it’s something I attend every year.' – Show visitor Dennis, Marrickville.
For more information, contact Domenic Genua Marketing & Events Manager Boating Industry Association of NSW Ltd firstname.lastname@example.org