October | November 2020
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>> The pandemic represents a golden opportunity to reset for the long-term
Miami, is evidence, if it were needed, that this pandemic will cast a long shadow into 2021. That show cancellations have become one of the few consistencies in this Covid era is of little surprise given health protocols.
After initial supply chain and production disruption caused by the first wave of lockdowns in the spring – issues that were for the most part quickly resolved as the resurgence in boating interest took hold worldwide – the industry has been scrambling to fill the temporary void left by traditional routes to market that our established show calendar provided.
That we’ve adapted so quickly with virtual offerings and direct marketing events set up by builders with strict social distancing protocols in place, is testimony to an industry dynamic that should be applauded. It also highlights an uncomfortable truth; that some shows were not as essential as we once thought.
It is often said that seismic events, such as a pandemic, can act as an accelerator. There’s no doubt that our virtual world is here to stay.
The legion of largely small- to medium-sized businesses that make up our industry are finding that doing away with some of the physical can be a significant cost saver.
The truth is that long before Covid, there had been growing concern that there were simply too many shows, that exhibitors were being asked to run harder and faster on an events treadmill, with diminishing returns.
Fatigue of the ‘virtual’ however should not be underestimated. Covid, if anything, reinforces the primacy of face-to-face meetings – and when the nervousness over travel and social distancing subsides, as it one day must, those physical shows that have proved themselves essential – and there are a healthy number – will only gain in importance. However, to fully take advantage questions need to be answered:
Should the shows of tomorrow be ‘hybrid’ affairs, harnessing the best of virtual and physical, extending the industry reach and potentially reducing costs for exhibitors along the way? How do we maximise the potential of physical events? Do all events need to be held annually? In reducing the number of exhibitions is the industry finally uncoupling itself from the punishing (and unsustainable?) cycle of new product launches? If we find answers to at least some of the questions, we have a crucial chance to reinvigorate the show landscape, to work that treadmill smarter, not harder – a reality that could have long-term, positive ramifications for the boat business.
Ed Slack | IBI Editor
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