Written by Kiran Jay Haslam
Those who know me well, are familiar with my joking description of the marine industry as “a bunch of people drinking with a boating problem.”
Jokes aside, what I really mean is, we tend to have a good time. A lot.
In fact, when dealing with the world of boats, you tend to have to be consistently operating at a level of “peak elation” or happiness, simply to engage with clients, the products, insurers, authorities, crew, manufacturers, maintenance, and sales teams.
It’s a big list of people, and they are all congregating here in Cannes this week.
It has been a bizarre two years since we were last here. Our industry has always leaned on boat shows, like an old set of school nurse crutches.
Nearly everyone in the industry feared missing out on a single show, so we set ourselves up for the circus. Run the show, pack it all up, move along and do our very own take on Groundhog Day over 40 times a year, across marinas and exhibition centres all over the world.
My team at Princess are responsible for operating around 20 percent of those 40 shows as a factory-backed operation. It is incredibly hard work, but tremendous fun, and we typically see a disproportionately high number of sales from off the show stands that creates peaks and troughs in our 12-month sales graph.
Covid has flattened that graph out, but it has raised it up to a flat-yet-record-high base line, and so we see our orders going out past the end of 2023 for even our smallest craft. The safety, predictability and “social yet distant” comfort of travel aboard your own boat totally makes sense in this new post-pandemic reality.
I am, however, aware of the situation back home in Oz and over in NZ, and I hope Covid outbreaks are under control soon.
The trip over to Nice from Heathrow was truly bizarre. Days before the flight I loaded up three separate APPS in order to pull through vaccine certificates and make “honourable declarations” to comply with the current restrictions on travel.
The airport was incredibly quiet, with barely enough footfall to justify even half of the terminal shops and restaurants to be open. It was as if the BA lounges were vandalised by QR code criminals, with stickers slapped on every surface imaginable, so you literally had to scan with your phone to do anything once inside.
I must say that travelling at this moment in time conjures up an exploratory feeling of being a pioneer on a new frontier. Except for when you board your flight, and every single seat is taken and the person seated next to you takes off their mask and starts wolfing down a packet of crisps whilst breathing heavily in between each handful! Back to reality.
This Cannes show feels incredibly different now. Everyone seems super relaxed. We have a much more modest plan for our hospitality and a boat lineup that can easily be described as “rock n’ roll”. Y and X class global debuts, and some clever tech being launched including our new Hybrid “Superfly” in collaboration with MAN.
It is interesting to see how the organisers are reacting to a sustainability challenge that most of us as exhibitors have been calling out for over many years, and of course, to really make a difference it is about doing a little less, perhaps, to produce a lot less waste.
Today I witnessed a show official enforce a level of waste management (separating materials being thrown into skips) that suggests to me we have turned a corner in terms of focusing on environmental impact.
Congratulations to the organisers here in France. Since 2016 – when we stamped out Single-Use Plastics across all Princess international events, started serving only sustainable produce and re-using literally any item or material from our stand build – we started a journey that I believe many other businesses in our industry can join us on.
I’m not a fan of “green peacocking”, and I think many of us need to come together and look at synergies and alignment within our environmental plans to effect even greater change, and faster.
We stopped printing brochures this year and switched to e-brochures, and we have stopped giving away any branded merchandise that might eventually make its way to landfill. Not as a cost-saving measure – albeit a lovely aspect of this – but rather, as a commitment to stop producing waste, and shipping unnecessary items around with us.
We will be talking a lot about this and several other environmental commitments we have made at our press conference here in Cannes.
Tomorrow will be the first day of the show. Media outlets will be here en masse. Covid protocols will undoubtedly bewilder yet satisfy visitors.
I don’t know how many of the 120 Princess distributors from around the world who secured show passes, and their 3,000 customers whom we allocated tickets to, will show up, however, we are hoping enough do to validate our presence here.
Given that we maintained an impressive eight-yacht lineup but reduced our hospitality space by 50 percent, I am also keeping my fingers crossed that we are not overwhelmed by huge crowds, although our dear friends at the Salcombe Distilling Company have provided us with enough Gin . . . just in case!
I dearly hope that by this time next year many of you over in Oz and NZ can make it over for the show. And might I say, a Cannes show is just not a Cannes show without Hillary Buckman and Michele McCamley in attendance!
Chief Marketing Mayhem Officer, Princess Yachts Limited