This year saw all the major European boat shows either cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, including the Monaco Yacht Show and the Cannes Yachting Festival. However, as always, when society hits an obstacle we innovate to find a solution; some events were hosted virtually or socially distanced for example, with the Yacht Club de Monaco running all the events it usually organises during the Monaco Yacht Show digitally. As we head into winter 2020 and COVID-19 casts uncertainty over the future of large events, let’s look at the possibilities for the European yacht show calendar in 2021 and beyond.
What is the future of the European boat show calendar?
What’s planned so far for 2021?
So far, we have seen the majority of European boat shows in 2020 simply postponed to 2021. We will have to wait and see whether they can go ahead as planned. If they can, it will be interesting to see whether they also contain a virtual element for those who would rather visit online, and if not, whether more festivals will embrace the digital approach in 2021. Cancel-proof events will likely be the focus for event planners next year, who are doubtless keen not to miss out on another year of business.
European boat show calendar highlights for 2021
- The Palma Superyacht Show will run from 30th April-3rd May.
- The Superyacht Show in Barcelona’s Marina Port Vell is planned for 2021 - dates TBC but this year’s festival was planned for early May.
- The Venice Boat Show 2021 will take place from 29th May-6th June.
- The 2021 Cannes Yachting Festival is due to run from 7-12th September.
- The Monaco Yacht Show is set to celebrate its 30th birthday next year, from the 22nd-25th September. Before it was cancelled, the 2020 show had been modified to be a pared-down, not-for-profit event that would provide an opportunity for the community to share ideas, meet with customers and start to rebuild positive momentum. We will have to wait and see what the 2021 Monaco Yacht Show will consist of, as this will depend very much on the COVID-19 situation.
Digital yacht shows: The future or a poor substitute?
There has been excitement about the idea of digital yacht shows, led at the forefront by the Palm Beach Boat Show. When the show was forced to cancel its in-person live event, scheduled for the 26th-29th March, its organisers quickly rallied to produce a virtual boat show that launched on the 14th May. The Virtual Palm Beach International Boat Show offered exclusive video walkthroughs and hundreds of virtual boat tours. Potential clients were also able to talk to brokers on FaceTime to find out more about yachts for sale and charter.
In Europe, although the Monaco Yacht Show was postponed, the Yacht Club de Monaco also went ahead virtually with all the programmes it usually organises during the Monaco Yacht Show, hosting three days of talks and conferences related to its event title ‘Monaco: Capital of Yachting Experience’. Hosted digitally over Zoom, and featuring a mixture of press conferences, launches, debates, and more, this event brought the industry together and offered an opportunity to catch up on the latest trends.
This digital approach obviously has its limitations, with nothing quite replacing the feeling of looking around a boat in person, and the socialising and networking aspect being severely reduced. However, it is a viable alternative for European boat shows in 2020, fulfilling the event's main purpose of introducing an interested audience to boats on the market. Digital shows may even help to restrict the attendees to just those looking to make a purchase, with no lure for those who may have previously just seen it as a fun day out. Digital yacht shows may also be advantageous for some who may have not been able to attend due to a busy schedule, allowing them to ‘drop in’ from wherever they are in the world.
In-person shows: Will restrictions limit enjoyment?
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is one of very few yacht shows going ahead this year, and, in order to run the event, the organisers have introduced a number of safety measures, strictly following the new industry-wide AllSecure standards. These protocols include no-contact registration, enhanced cleaning taking place before, during, and after every day of the show, mandatory mask wearing on site, screening through thermal scanning, and a track and trace system.
Of course, the measures introduced by European boat shows in 2020 and beyond may not be identical, but they are a good example of how we can expect in-person boat shows to change, at least in the short term. While the protocols may slow down access around the site and require patience with regards to social distancing and mask wearing, this should not significantly impact the enjoyment of our yacht shows, which will still be a fun and friendly environment at which to discover incredible water toys and boats.
How will yacht shows look for the rest of the decade?
With digital event access providing real advantages for certain clientele, it is possible that even once there is no serious risk of COVID-19 and life returns to normality, we will see a hybrid of in-person and virtual European boat shows, allowing everyone to access the boats through the medium that suits them best. However, nothing digital could ever replace the atmosphere of these in-person events, and for that reason it is unlikely that digital events will ever fully supersede live yacht shows.
In the first episode of a yachting chat show hosted by Heesen called YachtTalk, it was suggested that targeted micro-events may replace traditional yacht shows in the future, reducing costs for businesses and allowing them to cater better to their top clientele. This could be a good compromise between limiting numbers while still providing an enjoyable and exclusive in-person event.