Southampton Boat Show: increased footfall despite ‘atrocious’ weather

SIBS 2023 Southampton International Boat Show (1)

The 54th Southampton International Boat Show drew to a close on Sunday (24 September 2023). In spite of the British weather causing havoc mid-week, with high winds and driving rain, organisers, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors alike have heralded the show as a success.

Covering over 70,000 square metres, the show welcomed over 650 craft, with over 350 boats berthed in the marina, an increase of 17 per cent year on year. These ranged from the Sunseeker 100 Yacht and the Spirit 75 to the electric hydro-foiling Candela C-8 and craft of all shapes and sizes.

The show welcomed 86 new companies and hosted 78 world and UK debuts.

“There has been a great atmosphere at this year’s show. We have been delighted to welcome over 92,000 people over the past ten days. We had been well on track to hit our target of over 100,000 visitors this year, until the bad weather hit”, says Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine.

“This year marks our first full show after bouncing back from covid, and since last year’s closure out of respect for the Queen’s passing, the feedback from exhibitors from across the industry has been positive, with many indicating strong sales.”

Due to lightning on the first Sunday and the exceptionally high winds on Tuesday and Wednesday, a decision was made to close all of the show’s water activities for the safety of visitors and exhibitors. Robinson adds: “Despite this, we still managed to host over 9,000 visitors on the water, who were able to try everything from dinghy sailing, paddleboarding and kayaking to RIB rides, yacht cruising and motorboating.”

SIBS 2023 Southampton International Boat Show (6)

Caroline Barbour, UK marketing manager for Sunsail and The Moorings said initial figures showed a rise in footfall. “This year’s show has been a great success for both Sunsail and The Moorings, and initial figures show that footfall was up 25 per cent on last year,” she says.

According to the organisers, the new shipyard area, with live music and DJ sets, proved a crowd pleaser, while celebrity guests, including Captain Sandy from TV Show Below Deck Mediterranean, and Daisy Kelliher from Below Deck Sailing Yacht brought a showbiz feel to the show.

The new Beach Haven & Watersports Lake, presented by Haven Knox-Johnston, saw visitors enjoying kayaking and paddleboarding, model boating and SUP yoga.

SIBS 2023 Southampton International Boat Show (2)

“With the feedback we receive from visitors and exhibitors, our thoughts now turn to planning for next year, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2024”, says Robinson.

Organisers have confirmed the dates for the 2024 edition of the Southampton International Boat Show as 13 to 22 September 2024.

Chris Head, sales director for Sunseeker London Group, acknowledged a slight slowdown for the group in 2023. “The weather has been hit and miss and has affected things, but pleased to say as the week has gone on, with a little bit of sunshine, we’ve written business,” he says. “Southampton is still a very good show for us; in the past, it’s probably been one of the best shows for signing business worldwide, that’s business done on the day. The final three days of the show have been pretty good, clients are positive, but there has been a slowdown this year — but seeing a pickup with clients’ enquiries, so definitely people are positive.”

SIBS 2023 Southampton International Boat Show (2)

Jo Davies, marketing manager for Princess Yachts, adds: “This year, despite the weather, we’ve seen a record number of appointments made. The sunny weekend brought out the crowds in significant numbers. It’s been very busy for us and a very successful show … In spite of turbulent times, we’ve seen a spike in interest and sales. We will definitely be seeing you next year.”

Nick Meadow, sales manager at Garmin, described the show as ‘really good’ despite some challenges. “It’s been a really good show,” he says. “There have been good quality customers. I don’t think we’ve had the same amount of volume as last year due to the weather, but the people who have been here have been really good. All in all, it’s been a really good show, and all being well, we’ll be back next year.”

Dave Brown, UK sales manager at Harken, reports a ‘very good’ level of engagement. “We’ve had a very successful show, as we generally do. A very good level of engagement this week; we’ve seen lots of numbers on the stand, we’ve not got the final number yet, but it does look like we’ve had a better year than normal,” he says.

SIBS 2023 Southampton International Boat Show (2)

Mark Riley, head of ATV & Marine at Suzuki Marine, says the weather did not spoil the show. “We’ve had a fantastic week here at the show, it has not been spoilt by the weather, despite the weather having been pretty atrocious,” he says.

“We’ve still had the visitors, we’ve sold lots of engines at the show, actually an amazing number of engines. The show goes from strength to strength in terms of excitement, there’s more to do at the show now, and I just think that it’s going to be bigger and bigger, and we’re looking forward to coming again next year.”

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