SABBEX says Covid-19 doesn’t have to keep buyers away from boats

Expect the unexpected in 2020 – and the same goes for the Boat Show.

Covid-19 may have wreaked havoc across the economy but it also forced the industry to become more resilient.  Virtual marketing, online boat tours and risk-adjusted workplace safety measures are now commonplace as the sector adjusts to the ‘new-normal’ of doing business amidst a global pandemic.

News that Messe Frankfurt has postponed this year’s Boatica Cape Town Boat Show has also prompted speculation of a possible alternative marketing platform, amidst ongoing discussion among key Boat Show stakeholders.

Current regulations prohibit large public events, but the swing to digital technology could lead to innovative solutions, says SABBEX chair Bruce Tedder. “These are difficult times for all of us but we have seen different types of Boat Show configurations already elsewhere in the world,” Tedder said.

“There are buyers out there and people are buying boats. People will want to see boats under whatever restrictions apply at the time – it could be virtual, walk-around – we would have to be very cautious about format and also be guided by what is happening elsewhere in the world.”

Tedder sees opportunity in a limited-access format where potential buyers are invited to view boats while observing the usual health protocols. In this way the industry would not forego the historically valuable pre-summer marketing opportunity. With many boats stranded in the V&A marina under lockdown conditions, it could be a simple matter of authorising visitors to view them: “The boats are sitting in the harbour – why not make them available,” Tedder said. “October is the beginning of the selling season for smaller boat guys – rubber ducks, trailer-boat guys. They will all have stock. Robertson and Caine will have boats in the marina, and there will certainly be other builders who will have boats ready to sail across the Atlantic in October.”

“There will be a lot of incredible craft and around it would make absolute sense to try and get them into the Waterfront  and have a by-appointment-only viewing arrangement,” Tedder said.

Messe Frankfurt has not ruled out some form of alternative event. In a press statement issued last month the company said:  “At present, the Messe Frankfurt South Africa team are considering various

options to continue their support for the industry and enable ongoing business interactions. This includes potential opportunities to showcase the local boat builders products in 2020, despite not having a physical event.”

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