Flagship: No show for yacht show, what’s the impact?


Yacht show cancellations worldwide have left a calendar empty of almost all face-to-face events for the remainder of the year. One notable exception is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, due to take place between October 28th – November 1st. So, what will no show for yacht shows mean for investment in the superyachting sector?

It’s a long list of cancellations including Barcelona, Monaco and Cannes. The cancellations represent a lost opportunity. Monaco alone last year offered a showcase for 125 superyachts. There were 44 new launches, 30,000 visitors and over 42km2 of exhibit space. If you ever wondered what £3.45bn worth of superyachts looked like, you just had to glance around the harbour.

So, for a relatively small industry yacht shows are a shop front that, like High Street businesses, it cannot afford to lose. However, is technical innovation reducing the industry’s reliance on shows – as for the retail sector worldwide?

Sanlorenzo announced a record order backlog of €670m (on September 30th). That will allow it to all but cover predicted net revenues for new yachts in 2020. The Italian builder has looked to combine new technology to enable the physical experience to continue.

Record order backlog

Sanlorenzo attributes its prompt response to deploying new technology as being the reason for its ability to survive relatively unscathed this year. During Autumn, the company is holding ‘Sanlorenzo Elite Weekends’, effectively a private show of the entire range, which are also available to current and potential customers for sea trials. To be held at the company’s site in La Spezia, Italy the events will be socially distanced face-to-face.

Executive chairman, Massimo Perotti told Superyacht Investor (SYI): “This formula has been a significant success, confirming the company’s effective reaction to the cancellation of the boat shows in Cannes and Monaco.

“I believe that what is happening is revealing the importance of technology more and more and we will certainly exploit more digital resources. These same technologies will be able to support us greatly in the presentation of our products, but I believe that direct experience is still essential. For us it is very important to allow our customers to get on board because our yachts are places to live.”

For Burgess’ chief marketing officer, Tim Davis, boat shows are key moments in the calendar providing a chance to do face-to-face business and network.

“The cancellation of almost all of the industry events has meant that the industry has had to find other ways and means of doing business. The industry has had to become more innovative and creative in the way it interacts and the cancellation of shows has forced overdue change into the way that we conduct our business,” Davis told SYI.

Forced overdue change

“In difficult times there is even greater focus on finding solutions to problems. Our industry can be complex at the best of times and throwing a pandemic into the mix separates the men from the boys.”

Like Perotti, Davis believes that technology holds enormous opportunity. “The key, in my opinion, is not technology for technology’s sake. We need to use, harness and create smart solutions to our problems and the problems of our clients. The experience must always be seamless whether agreeing hull insurance, finding a replacement Captain or booking a charter over Thanksgiving. Get it right and get it right first time.”

Both Sanlorenzo and Burgess will be supporting the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Sanlorenzo has confirmed its presence whilst Burgess told SYI that it will be doing all to assist any owners wishing to take their yacht to the show.

One man who will be there is Robert Allen, founder, Robert Allen Law. The Florida lawyer told SYI the yacht business in America is “booming”. Despite recognising yachts shows as key drivers for business, from a US perspective, Allen said “right now we don’t need them”.

“When Covid goes away, or when the Covid panic goes away, we will need them again. Until the hotels start to open and people say I want to go to New York, I want to go to London, then we will need yacht shows again,” said Allen.

‘Our market is just exploding’

However, until that happens the US domestic yachting industry is going to remain strong according to Allen. “Our market is just exploding, and I think it relates to the fact in the summer you couldn’t go to Europe in the time period when Americans largely do. We also travel domestically, to National Parks, to go skiing, but now you’re not doing it. People want somewhere where there is a controlled environment, we are seeing that at all boat sizes and so it’s just exploded.”

Meanwhile, Davis is unsure about the long-term prospects for traditional boat shows. “I sincerely hope we will come together and use this opportunity to shape what is best for our clients and how do we give them the best superyachting experience,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to learn from other industries, listen to our clients, look to the future and truly shape the foundation of the industry for years to come. But we are in an industry that doesn’t embrace change well and I sincerely hope we take this opportunity to be brave.”

So, are glitzy yacht shows – and the sales opportunities they bring – a thing of the past? Or can we look forward to returning to the pre-Covid-19 yacht show normal? It’s too early to say. What’s not in doubt is the industry’s resilience and innovation in finding new ways to convert superyacht prospects into superyacht clients – show or no show.

Flagship contributors this week

  • Massimo Perotti, Sanlorenzo, executive chairman
  • Tim Davis, Burgess, chief marketing officer
  • Robert Allen, Robert Allen Law, founder.