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OPINION: Where have all of Thailand’s boat shows gone?



OPINION by Paul Poole

(The opinions stated here are those of Paul Poole’s and do not necessarily represent the thoughts of the boating industry or those of The Thaiger)

In 2017, ahead of the usual stream of boat shows and yachting events scheduled around the Kingdom, and before the current worldwide pandemic, I was asked if there was room for three boat shows in Thailand each year.

My answer (you may have seen the article, original story HERE) was yes. But with several caveats.

First the geography. I suggested the current concentration around Phuket is not sustainable in the long run. My original opinion has not changed. Phuket can only accommodate one boat show due to the size of the yachting industry, both in terms of yacht sales and yacht charter. Therefore, if three shows were planned, it would make more sense to widen the geographic spread of the boat shows to include one show in Bangkok, one show in Pattaya, and one on Phuket.

My second concern was that the competition between the boat shows is not sustainable. Although all three boat shows organised in Thailand had unique selling points, they ultimately competed for the same sponsors, partners, exhibitors. And, in the case of the Phuket Rendezvous (formerly PIMEX, the Phuket International Boat Show) and the Thailand Yacht Show, the same visitors. Therefore shows were struggling to deliver the required ROI (return on investment) and ROO (return on objective) to sponsors, partners and exhibitors.

Other issues I raised then and have done since centre around the lack of collaboration. The format for previous shows has been to organise, market, sell and host in isolation of other shows. But, as I’ve said previously, boat shows are commercial enterprises, a fact that poses challenges to collaboration. 

However, I believe there is something to be learnt from mass participation sports events such as marathons or triathlons held in the Kingdom. Many of those competitive events work collaboratively by allowing similar events to promote their own races within. This kind of approach creates value for participants, sponsors, partners, exhibitors, spectators and the wider community and helps grow and improve their industry. The boat shows and yachting events can learn from this.

My final concern was the misconception about sponsorship. The success or failure of a particular event often depends on the sponsorship deals it manages to secure. Each year, millions of baht were paid in sponsorship to yachting events. Yet we saw a significant portion of custodians who viewed sponsorship as free money or a charitable donation. As a result, they failed to provide the ROI and ROO the sponsors expected and deserved. This left unsatisfied sponsors and inadequately organised events:  and failure to realise the true potential of a ‘property’.

At the time of being asked the question: “Is there room for three boat shows in Thailand each year?” my conclusion was: if the above issues are acknowledged, then actively and collectively addressed, there is certainly enough room in the Kingdom for three boat shows and a full yachting events calendar. 

However, if the current fragmented and self-serving approach were allowed to continue, it would not only hurt the industry as a whole, it would sooner or later also hurt the very people and organisations that are trying to grow it.

What has changed since then? Well, fast forward to 2020/21, and we find ourselves, hopefully, towards the end of a devastating worldwide pandemic. It has negatively impacted so many previously thriving industries: especially sports, tourism, MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions), events and hospitality. Therefore a new question could be asked, “Where have all of Thailand’s boat shows gone?” 

I can answer that with some good news! Not only can we look forward to the return of outside events in the not too distant future: but what has happened sooner than I predicted is that positive changes have emerged. In January 2022, the Thailand International Boat Show is set to become the single boat show in Phuket serving Thailand and the region’s yachting and related lifestyle industries. This inaugural boat show planned by JAND Group and JAND Events is an exciting venture that will put Phuket on the world stage.

It perhaps demonstrates that many in the industry agreed with my 2017 concerns and the issues I raised.

I believe thus far many in our industry have wanted to see changes but feel unable to confront the more popular stance of ‘yachting events in the Kingdom (and beyond) are too established and resistant to change, and there’s little that can be done’. 

The Thailand International Boat Show is an event that has been planned in meticulous detail by a team with over 30 years of experience. I am delighted to be involved because Thailand is ready to see the return of a billion dollar industry that can boost the Kingdom’s economy in so many ways, and Phuket is an exceptional location. 

Through extremely unfortunate circumstances, namely the worldwide pandemic, others in the frame have been unable to fulfil the anticipated show schedule, leaving Thailand’s yachting industry without a showcase for more than two years, even stretching into 2022 and beyond.

The Thailand International Boat Show’s rights holders and organisers have, in my opinion, been brave enough and confident enough to step up and end the two year void of shows, replacing uncertainty with a firm commitment.

I’ve said repeatedly throughout 2020/21: our priority as commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing experts must be to work with our clients, sponsors, and partners to ensure the return of such events once restrictions lift. We’ve used our professional products, services and training workshops to help them make decisions to ensure they remained strong and buoyant in such uncertain times and are ready to return with confidence (and panache!) when restrictions allow.  JAND Group and JAND Events are an excellent example of the success of our supporting and nurturing approach.

Therefore we’re immensely proud to be part of the reimagining of a boat show – the Thailand International Boat Show on January 6-9 , 2022 at the Royal Phuket Marina. It is a shining example of a well-managed collaboration: a phoenix show rising out of the ashes of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and emerging as one show for Thailand, unifying the industry and promoting the Kingdom as the Asian yachting destination. 

We wish all involved the greatest success.


Paul Poole is the founder, managing director and chairman of Paul Poole (South East Asia) Co., Ltd., an independent marketing consultancy based in Bangkok, Thailand.


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