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2020 November December Marina World

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INDUSTRY NETWORKING In mid-July, Gold Coast City Marina, Australia, hosted a strictly controlled ‘day out’ for boaters. The mini boat show event was deemed successful by attendees as a safer alternative to mass gatherings. ‘Valet events’ for future networking? by Oscar Siches Even when we are trying to stay focused in straightforward business, we are still part of a society that is looking at us and forming – or maintaining – an opinion about nautical activities and the people involved with them. Those who look at the nautical industry and its activities from outside can influence politicians to either be in our favour or to be against us. The last six months have seen a slowdown in nautical activities, with big differences in different countries. When a common denominator prevailed, it was the belief that nautical activities are harmless, as small groups of people taking to the sea naturally keep their distance from everybody else. Keeping distance and wearing face masks are the strongest and most widely adopted measures to avoid being infected by the virus. In order to help control the spread of the pandemic, most boat shows have been postponed or cancelled since mid-February; some due to government policies and others at the discretion of the organisers. Most gave enough warning to exhibitors and visitors so as not to cause avoidable losses, the worst case being the unjustifiable eleventh hour decision by Southampton Council in September in the UK to cancel DML-British Marine’s Boats 2020 and MDL’s Ocean Village Show occasioning serious losses and damaging the boat shows’ credibility (you only need one bad example to bring down all of them). We should not forget that we have a social responsibility and need to integrate with our communities. Our responsibility as a strong guild means we have to maintain our good image. A boat show can be seen as a frivolous event for the few, while millions of people are afraid and sometimes confined until a solution to containing the COVID-19 infection has been found. It does not matter if the event is feasible or not, the industry must think about how running such an event will be seen by the rest of society. It can, however, be done carefully – and with success. In Australia, a one-day event was run in mid- July at the Gold Coast City Marina (GCCM). Large scale events, such as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) have been few and far between in 2020. FLIBS was, however, held for the 61 st time this year. Image: 2019 It was planned for 1,900 people to attend, a decision made together with the local government and sanitary authorities. GCCM created an excellent management standard to protect people from potential infection. Among the measures were pre-registration, time slots for visiting the show to avoid concentrations higher than was safe at any one time, training show personnel to react to people grouping within unsafe distances, and a specially designated area with medical attention for suspected virus carriers. Mini events like this could be the solution until the situation allows crowds to gather again. Companies can organise their events without the limitations of large shows, and can better cater to their own customers as they know them best. We all hope it is just a matter of time until we can control the situation but ignoring the perceived seriousness by carrying out high assistance ‘business as usual’ does not help anybody. We are living with an excellent opportunity to try new ways of reaching clients, and these new ways could be ways for the future. We could call them “valet events”. In areas popular with boat shows, four or six events like this could be run at the same time for four or five days in different locations or marinas, with people visiting one at a time and making their own circuit. I am sure we will learn a thing or two by implementing this approach, and it will help us maintain a good image with the whole world, including the omnipresent politicians. We need that. Oscar Siches is a marina consultant based in Mallorca, Spain. E: – November/December 2020 25

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