15 September, 2018
US Sailboat Show
American version of Boot Düsseldorf
The Annapolis show presents all that is good in terms of boat show quality. It is held outdoors, in a beautiful venue, large enough but not massive, with a growing visitor number. Another specific is the focus on sailing and charter, both very trendy topics nowadays. It seems, after considering all, that USSS Annapolis could soon be perceived as the Boot Düsseldorf of America. If that becomes true, we will see a significant shift in the habits of European charter companies. Furthermore, such a shift might just be a pivoting force in the further development of the Mediterranean charter industry. Even without considering the esthetics of the show, a pure mathematical approach will tell us a lot: while Boot is the largest in-door boat show in the world, it attracts 230.000 visitors in ten days, with all its sectors – sailing, power, charter, vacation, equipment and many other. USSS on the other hand counts about 80.000 visitors only with sailing and charter, in only five days. Another similarity is the focus on yacht charter, both shows feature a high number of exhibiting charter companies. Boot has its hall 13 and USSS has Vacation Basin and Mediterranean Corner, both areas for charter in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, respectively. The major difference though is that the US bareboat charter market is a direct client market and does not work through agency mediators.
Thus, charter companies work exclusively with direct clients. Europeans often dismiss an exhibit in the States just as Americans dismiss a holiday in Europe for a simple reason – the cost of travel. That has significantly changed in the last years and just as the American sailor can cost-efficiently reach Europe, the European exhibitor will spend less on travel and accommodation cost for the USSS than the Boot. The flights have cheapened and accommodation is for just half the period so it makes more financial sense. ‘When it comes to Annapolis, we couldn’t mathematically assess feasibility, so it was simply a matter of choosing to do it or not. We have decided to participate for business reasons, although I know many participants simply like to travel there for a holiday of sorts. After the first year, when we sent a three-member team to Annapolis, we lost some money. We made direct bookings, but could not cover our expenses. The second year we were in the green, and profited from participation. After that, we decided Annapolis was feasible and we haven’t changed our minds since’, says Zoran Brkić from Adriatic Sailing. Above all, the prospect of building a direct-charter-client base is something that might be the main motivation for the exhibitors. The European market is agency-based this will not change so soon – adding a US direct client market to it could significantly improve both financial efficiency and client-diversity of the European charter industry. It will be interesting to follow the further development of the world’s largest sailboat show.
Photos by Tino Prosenik