The penultimate day of the 2014 Barcelona Boat Show saw several accredited members of the press gather for a breakfast round table meeting with the show management. As a firm indication that they are serious about continuing the growth of the event, their purpose was to ask for constructive as well as honest input about the event, from a group of international nautical journalists.
Following the recession which was of course extra severe in Spain, the ‘Salon Nautico Barcelona’ hit troubled times and struggled to fill halls with the old indoor format, prompting a total rethink led by the Spanish Nautical Business Association (ANEN), and supported by the show’s president Luis Conde, together with its operational director Jordi Freixas.
The result was a move to a totally outdoor format in 2012, utilising the city marina site Port Vell. The port itself has been undergoing a major revamp during the last few years, and is now operating as a full service Superyacht marina after a major investment by the British owned Salamanca Group.
The decision to ‘cut back and re-grow’ from used foundations, has undoubtedly started to pay off, and this year the third edition of the new outdoor format has seen a 20% increase in the space occupied by the show, and a 17% increase in exhibitors over last year according to Jordi Freixas.
The majority of this increase he said, has come from boats in the water, rather than equipment exhibition tents on the dock. As an example he mentioned that French boat builder Beneteau had 18 boats on the dock this year compared to five last year. Also pointing out that future growth has no physical barriers, as the long term agreement with the port authorities allows for an expansion up to double the size of the current site!
For sure the feeling out in the show ground was that the Spanish boating market has turned the corner from the bad old days, with lots of visitors enjoying perfect sunny weather, fanned by a welcome sea breeze in the afternoon. Also lots of moorings were temporarily empty as the boats on them were out on sea trials. This is obviously a feature that outdoor boat shows in warm sunny climates benefit hugely from.
All of this renewed confidence is supported by the oldest figures on new boat registrations in Spain from ANEN, who reported an increase of 12.8% compared to the same period last year. Although it has to be said that 90% of those are still under 8 metres, which is the cut off size for the imposition of the dreaded 12% matriculation tax for privately registered Spanish flagged yachts.
However ANEN are reasonably confident that this range will be extended to 15 metres at some time in the future, again due to their energetic lobbying of the government, meaning of course that this will open up the entire range of family size yachts to a more receptive potential buyers market in Spain.
Also, with almost perfect timing just a week before the show opened, the Spanish government announced a significant relaxation on the requirements for skippers licenses, in order to stimulate more interest at the lower end of the market, and hopefully tempt more first time boaters to invest.
Effectively this removes the obligation to acquire the Spanish equivalent of a day skippers license, providing the boat is less than 5 metres long, with an engine power of under 15hp. Or up to 6 metres with an engine that is officially specified with a matched propulsion package by the original manufacturer.
Jose Luis Fayos speaking for ANEN, said that they had been lobbying the government for close to four years to make this change, which will also obligates the seller of the boat, to refer the buyer to a sea school for a basic training which takes about six hours, before letting him sail it away. “This in effect means that the used boat buyer can be afloat with his used toy almost immediately” said Fayos, “where as before he had leave it with the dealer for at least two months until he got his license.”
Exhibitors at the show seemed generally upbeat and happy with the attendance and enquiry levels. Although international exhibitors such as UK based Princess and Sunseeker (both with used models and a good selection of boats in the water,) seemed to be getting the lions share of the enquiries, both reporting that they had seen a healthy mix of international visitors.
Spanish yard Rodman was a little less enthusiastic about seeing any orders from the show, but they have long ago given up on the Spanish market due to the stranglehold of the matriculation tax. Their order book is now 100% export, which probably accounts for the fact that they are one of a handful of Spanish boatbuilders who are still surviving.
For the first time a USA Pavilion was part of the show, featuring half a dozen or so US based companies keen to export their products or services to the Med. Angela Turrin a trade specialist with the US Embassy, said that they were very happy with the show, and expected to have double the amount of exhibitors under their banner next year. She also said that she was in talks with ANEN about a Spanish pavilion being featured in US shows such as Miami Boat Show.
So all in all, the Barcelona Boat Show, now with the backdrop of a row of gleaming Superyachts at the brand new Port Vell Martina across the water, has pulled several rabbits out of the hat since the dark days of 2011, when it looked likely to crash and burn. It’s also on the path to becoming a truly international event , which it needed to do because of the parlous state of its national economy.
The newly introduced interactive events out in the harbour such as dinghy sailing lessons, Stand up Paddle Boarding, and a wave machine for practicing surf boarding, were all busy with participants enjoying being on the water in the sunshine.
Full credit to ANEN the Spanish nautical trade association, and Luis Conde the show’s president, a keen yachtsman himself who has taken the time to listen to the industry, and to be brave enough to implement the required changes.
Reported for BYM News by Peter Franklin
Bespoke Publicity for the Yachting World