400,000 visitors expected

For 10 days in the spring of 2011 Liverpool will enjoy it’s first boat show  (29 April-8 May) which organisers claim will have 400,000 visitors: twice that of Southampton. The show will be free for ‘spectators’ – as it is set in the heart of the city’s restaurant and nightclub area it would be difficult to charge. But there will be closed off sections of pontoons which will require a £15 wristband for entry as well as ‘VIP islands’ costing up to £50 per head and dotted throughout Albert Dock.

With enough space to swallow Southampton Boat Show six times over, the city centre a two minute walk away, and Liverpool itself just a two hour train journey from London the organisers believe they have a stunning formula. The £750,000 budget for advertising (nearly twice that of Southampton) will help. The road haulage costs for exhibitors bringing boats from the Solent would be the same as those for bringing boats to ExCel, the organisers claim.

Liverpool is also surrounded by its own ‘stockbroker belt’ in The Wirral and has the fastest growing economy in the UK. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who is leading the steering group for the show said Liverpool still had an ‘affinity with the sea’ which other parts of the UK have lost. His own Clipper Race drew crowds of 80,000 just to watch the start – a 30 minute spectacle, he said.

Sir Robin said it was the first boat show – in London’s Olympia – which inspired his own solo, non-stop record-breaking circumnavigation when he visited it as a 14-year-old. ‘Hiscock’s boat was there and I said to myself: “I will go round the world one day”. Though it took me another 16 years before I achieved it.’

The area has enjoyed a £2 billion investment in the last two years, with some EU funding, hosts the MTV Awards, has a new cruise liner terminal, a new exhibition centre and a new museum. It also boats ‘better crime figures’ than the West Midlands or Northumbria, organisers claim.

Liverpool is also the ‘best run ashore’ in the UK, a place where ‘hedonism abounds’ which ‘tired old London does not have’. It would be like having the ExCel show in the middle of Oxford Street’ James Gower, the commercial director said.