The 2018 Korea International Boat Show (KIBS) closed on Sunday with exhibitors pleased by the increase in serious visitors as the boat population in the country passes 31,000.

KIBS, which ran from May 24-27, revealed a growing interest in leisure boating as more serious buyers visited the show – despite the total number of visitors declining this year by 10% to 41,423.

According to the organisers, attendance was affected by a government warning of air pollution due to fine dust in the atmosphere especially around the Gyeonggi and Seoul area during the show period, affecting the number of families who went for outdoor activities. There was also a national holiday for the Buddha’s birthday during the show, with some families taking a week’s vacation.

Show marketing co-ordinator Daria Kim told IBI: “We have been very focused on target marketing to invite proper domestic and international buyers which can be really matched with Korean companies, rather than inviting random companies in the marine industry and it has worked.”

The number of leisure boats in the country has grown by 15% per annum over the last five years, bringing the total to 31,145, according to figures released during an industry/government round table forum on the first day of the show.

Leisure boating has steadily grown over the past 10 years due to several significant factors:

  • The boating area of the northwest coast was opened up to leisure boating 12 years ago when security concerns for boating near the proximity to the border with North Korea were reduced
  • A government policy to promote a five-day week and encourage leisure pursuits was introduced which has also included building marinas and boating facilities. Some 29 new marinas will be in place by 2020 as a result of the government initiative
  • The introduction of KIBS by the Gyeonggi province 11 years ago has been a major factor in promoting the boating lifestyle
  • The rapid rise in the average GDP per head to US$30,000 has created a booming middle class, many of whom are keen to find new active leisure activities

While the average GDP per head is on par with other well-off Asian countries such as Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, South Korea benefits from a 5,000km coastline including river estuaries and islands ideal for boating and fishing. Consequently, waterside land is available for marinas and boating clubs in most of Korea, a situation unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, where, if land is available, price and restrictive planning issues are a negative factor for leisure boating growth.

KIBS runs annually and next year’s 12th edition is planned for a slightly earlier week in May to be confirmed shortly by the organisers.