Strikes Leave Paris Show Strapped

With transportation across France at a standstill, show organizers reported a 40 percent attendance drop
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Government strikes, protests and no public transport kept boaters away from the Paris show. 

Government strikes, protests and no public transport kept boaters away from the Paris show. 

The Paris Boat Show closed Dec. 15, with organizers announcing a 40 percent drop in the number of visitors for the first weekend alone. Nationwide labor strikes about reforms to pension plans were the culprit, paralyzing most of the country. Imagine an area the size of Texas with very limited public transportation, disrupted air traffic and fuel-refinery blockades. Getting to a boat show becomes the last thing on most people’s minds.

The problem is that Paris is the industry’s most important boat show. The five halls have 825 exhibitors, with around 1,000 new boats. About 60 were new launches, including several from Groupe Beneteau brands and many smaller builders. The halls were virtually empty the first week, though show organizers reported more than 100,000 visitors attended the show.

Across France, Paris was the most affected location: At the height of the strike, which at presstime in mid-January is ongoing, only two of 14 subway lines were operating, with few buses and almost no suburban trains. The boat show’s large decline is in line with what other industries have experienced. In Paris, restaurants and hotels reported 50 to 60 percent of business canceled. Shoppers at streetside stores have been nearly nonexistent.

Boaters who stayed home, however, missed some interesting developments around sustainability at this year’s boat show, including a new contest to make yachting more ecological and an industrywide effort to address ocean plastics.

The French company Temo introduced a portable electric engine for tenders and small boats that has 500 watts of power (equivalent to 1.5 hp) while weighing less than 11 pounds. The engine can be recharged from an electrical socket or USB port.

Also garnering notice was British-based Seafloatech, with floating anchoring solutions that do not damage the seabed. And in the tenders and toys department, French-based Neocean displayed its Overboat, a new-generation water scooter with electric propulsion and retractable foils. Weighing 220 pounds, it is capable of reaching 18 mph and has a two-hour battery life.

Show organizers also tried to limit the event’s ecological impact. Reusable materials were used to build the exhibition spaces, and 377,000 square feet of carpet and 15,900 cubic feet of protective packaging for the boats were sent to a recycling center. The use of LED lighting and insulation reduced electricity consumption by 30 percent. To offset its carbon emissions, the Paris Boat Show will plant 24,000 mangrove trees in Myanmar.

During the stand-up paddleboard race that traditionally takes place on the first Sunday of the show, Volvo, the event’s automotive partner, organized a “plogging,” during which runners collect litter while jogging. The runners collected 346 pounds of waste, and artist Cicia Hartmann used the plastic to create a work that was auctioned for $4,700. The sum was donated to an association working on beach cleanup. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue.

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