The continuing staycation boom and increase in boat sales in the UK have contributed towards making the 2021 Southampton Boat Show a success, says organisers

Organisers of the Southampton Boat Show believe an increased interest in boating and sailing in the UK, mainly driven by travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a ‘healthy and positive’ 2021 event.

The CEO of British Marine, Lesley Robinson said although the number of exhibitors were down slightly on previous events, demand for products was high, with some exhibitors reporting the best sales they have ever had at a show.

‘We get a really good quality of visitor and customer at the show and exhibitors are selling, including boat brokers, boat sellers and chandleries,’ she said.

Robinson said some exhibitors had struggled as ‘stock just hadn’t turned up at all’ , largely caused by supply chain issues as a result of COVID-19 rather than Brexit.

But she acknowledged that increased demand was ‘a good problem for the industry’ to have.

The marina part of the 2021 Southampton boat Show

Many boat builders and brokers reported interest from serious buyers, with some putting down deposits for boats at the show. Credit: Katy Stickland

‘We have over 350 exhibitors here, and 500 boats between land and the marina, so it’s a pretty sizeable show, but we are slightly down on 2019 in terms of numbers, but I have to look at the bigger industry picture and it is a stock problem. The feedback we’re getting from exhibitors is that they are selling,’ she explained.

Many UK boat brokers and sellers are reporting a marked increase in second-hand and new boat sales.

Alasdair Marshall from SE Yachts, which are agents for Najad and Arcona, said they had experienced ‘good footfall’ at the show.

‘We’re delighted to have some serious buyers,’ he said.

The group marketing director of Ancasta Group, Will Blair said the boat brokerage had ‘taken deposits on Beneteau and Lagoon.’

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Robinson said the show has also made financial sense for British Marine, which is a not-for-profit organisation.

She said the new layout, which was designed to connect the show to Southampton city, had been successful and there was ‘huge potential’ to develop the different zones for 2022.

Layout changes were also welcomed by exhibitors.

The owner and managing director of Drascombe by Churchouse Boats, Sharon Geary Harwood said: It’s lovely to be back and see people face to face, and we’re having some really interesting conversations. We love the new layout – it works really well.’

British Marine made a five year pledge in 2019 to make the show more sustainable with voluntary restrictions, such as no single use plastic, becoming compulsory for 2021.

Family at the Southampton boat Show

British Marine said the changed layout of the show was well received by visitors and exhibitors. Credit: British Marine

In 2019, 7.5 tonnes of rubbish was prevented from going to landfill because of the pledge.

Robinson said she was ‘disappointed’ to learn that some of the 2021 catering vendors were selling drinks in plastic bottles, especially as water refill points has been installed around the show ground. 

She said exhibitors could expect more compulsory environmental pledges in 2022 to make the 53rd Southampton Boat Show even more sustainable.

Premier Marinas and Bentley were the joint winners of the show’s Exhibitor Sustainability Award 2021 in recognition of their environmentally responsible behaviour.

Commenting on their win, the CEO of Premier Marinas, Pete Bradshaw said ‘For Premier it’s already been a long journey and it continues. We are really proud of the team’s accomplishments so far including being the first marina operator to introduce waste recycling across all our sites, leading in solar power generation, our marina ablution facilities with water-saving features, and pump-out facilities for the safe disposal of ‘black water’. We are measuring our carbon footprint with the target of achieving net zero by 2050, and engaging with The Green Blue initiative to help educate ourselves and our customers.’