Sailing boat market is more or less stagnating

According to Petros Michelidakis, director of boot Düsseldorf, the “sailing boat market is more or less stagnating.” Although he beams about the prospects for the show this January (20-28) and the return to the exhibition of some big players including Windy, X Yachts and Hanse Group, Michelidakis is concerned about small boat builders and their future.
Small sailing’s “not developing,” he says. “We see another development. Entry level is not sub five metre dinghies anymore. They [owners] go for 17 feet and over.”
Consequently, he says, “shipyards producing small boats aren’t making enough money. They need to build bigger boats. Really small boatbuilders are losing ground.”
Michelidakis says the industry needs to pull together. “We support them as it’s tradition. But it would be good for all of us to look after the smaller companies and save them as long as we can.
“Tomorrow it will be the turn of the small motor boats. In ten years we might lose the point of entry.

“The demand for small motor boats has reduced but is still there.
“We need to build up and strengthen the community. We need enough visitors coming and developing from SUP into a boater and then to big charters.”
Michelidakis sees charters as a vision of the future. He cites the numbers of visitors to the show in 2023 who said they’d like to charter a boat.
“Forty per cent of the B2C visitors said ‘yes’ for 2023 or 2024. That’s 80k people. Building of boats for charter will develop the boatbuilders numbers in the future because owning isn’t the deal for the next generation. It’s using.” This data will have direct impact on the show presentation as Michelidakis notes “we will target to have more boat clubs in 2025 at boot.”
Organisers of the show have been tracking anticipated spend data in charter weeks. In 2020, visitors said they had 3000 euro available for a week’s charter. In 2023, that had risen to 4300 euro. “People are able to spend more money for boating,” he believes. “The industry can survive on a good level and is still selling boats.”
That selling of boats is also happening more and more on the show floor. “The number of people passing by and buying a boat has increased,” says Michelidakis.
Last January’s edition of boot saw 38k visitors come with exhibitor invites (Sunseeker has ordered 6,000 invites for 2024). Those saying they’d buy a boat in the next five years was circa 48k.
“But we need the new blood and the power of purchasing,” says Michelidakis.
That new blood is coming from Michelidakis’ anecdotal statistic. He calculates that 80 per cent of people lying on a beach, looking at boat, dream of being on it. “How do we get them to come to us?,” he asks.
“The beach / coast is an entrance store for water sports of the future.”
Even though he has waiting lists for many halls with especially high pressure on motor boat side (“we could fill another hall”) Michelidakis says “it would be nice to extend the British presentation with British Marine.
“We have to help British Marine understand how important it is. It’s about the back up of a national institution. This is where money should be invested. It’s another platform backing up the smaller companies. It will help the exhibitors find ways to export products out of Great Britain as this is important for the future. British Marine needs to do it in a combined way to get more attention.”
British Marine says it has, and will continue to, offer its members the opportunity to exhibit at boot. “British Marine deeply values the opportunities and exposure that international boat shows offer,” says Lesley Robinson, CEO.
“Our commitment to promoting and supporting the marine industry remains unwavering. However, after consultation with our members regarding participation at boot we did not receive sufficient interest from our members to justify the creation of a co-exhibiting stand. This decision has no doubt been influenced by a variety of factors, notwithstanding that within recent years, UK exhibitors at overseas shows have lost access to valuable government funding such as TAP grants. It is important to note that this decision is not a reflection of the quality or the value of boot.
“Our decision is based purely on the collective interest of our members at this time. British Marine continually strives to align its activities and investments with the interests and needs of our members, ensuring that we provide the most effective support and representation. As such, we will continue to offer our members the opportunity to exhibit at boot going forward.”
In 2024, one of the ways for startups to receive attention is to join the pitching competition, with the chance to win a free stand at boot Düsseldorf 2025.
The competition, which is a partnership between boot Düsseldorf, European Boating Industry (EBI) and Yachting Ventures, is designed to foster industry innovators while connecting startups with others in the industry.

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