Southampton show hailed a “resounding success”

SIBS drone shot

As the show drew to a close last weekend, organisers, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors of the Southampton International Boat Show (SIBS) were hailing the show as one of the best yet.

Returning after a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the Southampton show had a buzzing atmosphere, as exhibitors and visitors alike were keen to meet face-to-face after a difficult 18 months. 

This year, the event showcased over 350 marine brands with 500+ boats on display, including many UK and global debuts.

Exhibitors in buoyant mood

Sunseeker International’s sales director Sean Robertson says: “Sunseeker are delighted to be back at this important show and as usual, it has delivered on both quantity and quality of visitors. It has been heartening to see packed aisles and pontoons; the UK leisure marine industry is in rude health with visitors keen to learn, try and buy the latest products. The response to our new models has been phenomenal and we have exceeded our goals by some margin. We’ll definitely be back next year for this key event in the boat show calendar.”

The demographic and keen new-to-boating visitors was also a positive factor for exhibitors.

Gibbs Quay Boat Sales director Don Bissessar says: “This is the 34th year we’ve been here and as far as I can recall, this year, surprisingly, has been the best show. I would say approximately 30 per cent of visitors have been new to boating, 30 per cent have been existing customers looking to upgrade, 30 per cent were looking for the future and 10 per cent were just enjoying the show and looking at yachts. We are so excited with the response from the show that we have put plans in place for 2022.”

Ian Thomson, director at Nestaway Boats (inc ePropulsion) said of the event: “We’ve sold over 100 electric outboard motors and 70 inflatable kayaks. It’s the best boat show in history and we’re delighted with the new layout.”

The new layout had a larger footprint and five new dedicated zones – Watersports, Classic & Dayboat, Dinghy, On The Water and Festival Green offering a wide range of products, services and attractions.

The positive sentiments were echoed by several other exhibitors. Sharon Geary Harwood, owner and MD at Drascombe by Churchouse remarks: “Best show for years, champagne corks popping, new boat orders coming in, fantastic weather and the visitors are even better!” While Borrow A Boat CEO and founder Matt Ovenden says: “The show has far surpassed expectations, it’s the busiest show we’ve ever had and busier than we thought it would be. We’ve had good engagement on the foredeck stage with our talks and we’ve had more leads and bookings than before.”

Earlier this month, MIN reported that Borrow A Boat had confirmed its intention to launch an IPO.

Plans for SIBS 2022

SIBS welcomed over 88,000 visitors across the ten days – down 14 per cent on 2019 but better than many expected during a Covid-19 year.

“Additional Covid-19 measures were introduced at the show, to help keep everyone safe, including proof of negative lateral flow tests. The majority of visitors seemed happy to have these extra measures and, given the circumstances, the Boat Show has been a phenomenal success which proves that confidence is back,” says Ian Cooke, president of British Marine.

A key focus at the show was getting people out on the water through Try-A-Boat and Try-A-Boat+. This year’s show saw a 25 per cent in increase on 2019, with over 13,760 visitors taking to the water, from beginners to seasoned sailors and there’s been a real appetite to try something new.

The largest motor yachts on display were the Sanlorenzo SX88 and Sunseeker 88, while the largest sailing yacht was the Hallberg Rassy 57. Over 30 yachts made their world, UK or show debut either on the marina or on land.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine says: “This year’s show has been a resounding success with a fabulous atmosphere as exhibitors and visitors alike have been enjoying meeting face-to-face.

“We’ve put even more emphasis into appealing to visitors of all backgrounds and interests, ages and ability than ever before. We’ve welcomed everyone from boating newbies to seasoned sailors and watersports enthusiasts, whether trying something for the first time or sharpening their skills.”

The boat show was opened by members of the British Olympic Sailing Team and a host of celebrities were spotted in the crowds during the event including Premiership footballer, Bukayo Saka (guest of the show’s automotive partner Bentley Motors), singer-songwriter Jamiroquai (Jay Kay), Georgia Toffolo (Toff) and Andrew Jordan from TV show Made in Chelsea.

With presentations from guest speakers on the Foredeck stage and the On The Water stage the show has been promoting accessibility and engagement, from SailGP’s Inspire programme to tales from round-the-world yachtsmen and women such as Mike Golding OBE and Pip Hare. The Women In Marine event was also a huge success and featured incredible tales at sea from Allie Smith, group events director at Oyster Yachts.

British Marine also presented Exhibitor Environmental Awards to joint winners Premier Marinas and Bentley Motors in recognition of going above and beyond to reduce their environmental impact and to introduce sustainable working practices.  

“The wide choice of sailing yachts, motor boats, accessories, paddle boards, kayaks and services across the new layout over 10 days has been incredibly well-received,” Robinson continues. “We are very much looking forward to building on the success of this resurgence and the new dates for next year, 16 -25 September 2022.”

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