PORTSMOUTH’S first ever boat show brought a massive boost to the city – and organisers say it could one day rival Southampton’s boat show.
Around 100,000 people went to Gunwharf Quays over the weekend, resulting in bumper sales at shops and restaurants.
On Saturday alone, more than 3,500 people were on the pontoons looking at the boats.
It was quite a sight seeing scores of powerboats and rigid inflatable boats moored up, with many taking visitors from all walks of life on tours of the harbour and Solent.
Now city leaders have vowed to make it a regular event and attract even more boats to the city.
Peter Emery, director at Gunwharf Quays, said sales for this year to date are 10 per cent up at the shops compared to this time last year.
He said: ‘We expect to make this an annual event.
‘It’s my aspiration to do something with Portsmouth Dockyard and the council and do something on the scale of Southampton Boat Show.’
Mr Emery said lack of hotel accommodation had held Portsmouth back in previous years, but with a new 200-bed hotel set to open at The Hard, the sky was the limit.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘I hope it’s the start of a great relationship to have regular boat shows in our city.
‘Southampton has had the market for a long time.
‘But there’s more going for us than there is in Southampton.
‘We have plans over the next two or three years to support all sorts of events to bring people to the city, whether it’s a boat show or a car show.
‘Portsmouth is very much open for business.’
It was the first time an event like this had been held in the UK. It was free to enter and open to all.
Gunwharf was buzzing with stalls and attractions as leading lights of the marine industry descended on the shopping centre.
Exhibitors said Portsmouth had so much to offer.
Richard Weaver, 39, from Lymington, who owns Voodoo Performance Craft, said Portsmouth was a more attractive option than Southampton.
He said: ‘This is for us a much better show.
‘At Southampton you get crowds all begging to see the big Sunseekers and cruisers. For us commercially, this is much better exhibition.’
Hugo Montgomery-Swan, organiser of the Suzuki-sponsored event, said: ‘It was a new concept of bringing a boat show to the public and I am happy to say it went really well.
‘The feedback from visitors has been excellent.
‘Everyone has been very happy to meet new people and people who have never been on a boat before, let alone contemplate buying one.
‘It’s been a very positive experience for everyone, helped by the beautiful weather.
‘We have made a good start here and we have something very special to build on.’