Building relationships is the key focus of Boatica’s new show director Melissa Lewis, who joins the team at the helm of this year’s showpiece boating event.  Lewis is optimistic about the three-year partnership deal that sees Messe Frankfurt and the City of Cape Town join forces to grow the event both in terms of visitor numbers and overall impact on marine manufacturing. The Show is still forging a new identity under new ownership and after twice being cancelled, in 2020 and 2021, due to Covid.

Lewis is confident this year’s show will build on the success of careful planning, and she hopes to achieve the ‘Sunshine Double’ – attract leisure visitors AND potential boating customers. She believes boosting the Show’s appeal as a tourist and visitor destination will create the positive momentum needed to attract top-end customers of the kind favoured by South Africa’s top-end boat builders. She joins a fast-growing cohort of perennial show attendees who believe, with the right support, the Show could grow into an international showpiece without losing its unique ‘boutique’ appeal. “We can make it better but there is no need to necessarily make it bigger. It is unique as it is now.  I think the focus should be on showcasing what the South African boatbulidng industry has to show to the world. “I think once the ball gets rolling and people start seeing the value of putting together what South Africa has to show the word, what we have on offer, then nothing is impossible,” Lewis says of her long-term vision.

But first things first, she acknowledges that her job this year will be to get everybody on board, particularly the key players. “One can dream very big, but currently we have to dream realistically,” she says. This means active consultation with all interested, affected, and disaffected parties.”

She says her approach is straightforward: building maritime manufacturing is also about building relationships. Although still in the planning stage, this year’s programme already features some big changes, such as a new show layout with a ‘launch-pad’ section to showcase the latest boat launches and supplies. Boatica 2024 also sees the return of a Lifestyle pavilion to cater for those who aren’t necessarily interested in buying an anchor, outboard engine, or 50ft cruising catamaran.  However there should also be plenty of boat eye-candy for those who actually want to shop for boats.

Lewis sees synergy between marine manufacturing and tourism, particularly at the level of clientele; she believes foreigners interested in buying South African boats are more than likely interested in South Africa, too, and the Show should position itself accordingly to also sell the destination and experience of Cape Town and South Africa..

“I am excited about becoming part of the boating network and community. It is something that I have been chasing in my dreams, and it is now becoming a reality.”

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