Cannes Yachting Festival Show Manager Reveals Event Plans

Cannes Yachting Festival 2020 is scheduled to take place from September 8 - 13. The 43rd edition of the boat show will welcome 420 vessels, berthed in both the Old Port and Port Canto. 

As the first 'live' yachting festival since Covid-19, the decision to go ahead cannot have been a simple one. To find out more about the factors behind the choice, and to discover what visitors can expect in Cannes, SuperYacht Times spoke to the remarkably calm and collected show manager Sylvie Ernoult.

For obvious reasons, there has been a lot of pressure on yacht shows recently. What were the key factors for you in deciding to go ahead? 

The first criteria was to confirm the content. It’s not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of who is coming. Cannes is a very eclectic show with a good range of boats. That’s the real power of the show – that’s its DNA. So, it doesn’t matter if a big player who used to come with 15 boats comes with 10 boats this year, it’s just important that they are there. 

The second thing was, of course, health and safety. Once we knew our clients wanted to come, we had to ensure we could protect them, staff, and guests. Our dedicated sanitary team has been working with UNIMEV [a French organisation that ensures environmental safety at events] to make a plan – and that plan was recently accepted by the government and validated by the international body, Apave. 

In early July we knew we had enough courageous clients wanting to proceed, and a good enough health and safety plan to push the button to go ahead. 

The city is helping us a lot, and the Palais is being very flexible, as is the port. Everybody knows it’s an extraordinary situation and wants to help.

What health and safety measures will be in place? 

We are following the law as of today to confirm maximum protection, so even if things relax nearer the time we know we can satisfy the strictest measures – you can always do less last minute, but you can’t always do more. 

Everything will be deep-cleaned. We will be monitoring the number of people entering and leaving and everyone will have to respect social distancing. They will also have to wear a mask and use the hand gel – but these are well-known rules for everybody. Exhibitors will help to monitor the rules inside their stands and on their boats as health and safety is a joint endeavour. 

There will be no one-way system – everywhere will have two-way access that respects distancing rules. People will be able to go one way or another along paths divided by a gap in the middle, like a highway. This means you won’t have to walk the entire way around the show to go a different way. You’ll still have the pleasure tour.

What events and exhibits can visitors look forward to?

I would say more than 90% of what regular visitors are used to will be present, including a consistent display of boats. 

The only thing I cannot promise is a brokerage section as they’re very late booking this year for obvious reasons. Other than that, all usual sections and departments will be there. The show is different and will be smaller, but we’ve worked very hard to keep the same quality and innovation. All the shipyards coming will bring their latest boats. Production may have stopped for some, but the world premieres that are possible will be there. 

It is not going to be a depressing show at all. It’s just going to be concentrated. There won’t be any parties, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Individual boats can host events as long as they’re reasonable and follow the rules.

How do you think the industry will react to the show going ahead?

My role is to listen to my clients and it is clear that most of them need and want the industry to restart and that means boat shows coming back. We have had more positive pushing than negative – maybe those not attending don’t approve, but it’s unclear. 

We know that real-life boat shows are so important: to see it, experience it and be there. So for me, opening the first boat show where exhibitors can talk to their existing clients, talk to potential new clients, talk to the press, re-develop their B2B relationships and present their new collections is so important for the industry and I’m excited to do it.