If you’re looking for some optimism in our industry, there was plenty of it at the National Marine Trades Council’s two-day meeting, which wrapped up Monday in Orlando.
The NMTC is made up of national and state association executive directors from around the country, most of whom also produce major boat shows. They meet annually ahead of the opening of the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo.
“We’ve seen a turnaround in membership and that’s a real indication that optimism has returned in our area,” NMTC chairman and president of the Northwest Marine Trades Association George Harris says. “Our NMTA goal was to reach 700 members this year and we’ve done it,” he added.
Harris wasn’t alone.
“We’ve experienced a return of lapsed members,” South Carolina Marine Association executive director Suzi DuRant says. It’s been the same story at the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, according to president Grant Westerson. Others attributed membership growth this year to their stepping up with a strong retention program involving improved communications of the value of the association membership.
After decreasing for the last couple of years, the largest membership increases have been enjoyed this year by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, up 50 percent; the doubling of the SuperYacht Association membership; and the MRAA going up 170 percent.
The positive outlook wasn’t lost when the meeting discussions turned from association management to boat show production. Focusing on the 2013 winter boat show circuit that opens in just seven weeks, most attendees reported getting increased demand for exhibit space for the first time in at least 3 years.
“Our Hartford show is sold out,” Westerson says with obvious pleasure.
“Our exhibitors say they see next year as better and they’ve just gobbled up all the space available,” he added.
It’s the same sold-out story for the Charleston Coliseum Show, according to Durant. And in Cleveland, “the demand for exhibit space has consumed the floor plan we published in August,” says Ken Alvey, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, “so we’ve requested more space from the I-X Center for the first time in 5 years.”
Out West, NMMA West vice president Dave Geoffroy reported a new in-water component will be added to the Los Angeles Boat Show. The show is held in the LA Convention Center and the new in-water segment will be staged at Marina Del Rey.
“The outlook of the dealers in our area is very positive,” Geoffroy says, “bolstered at least in part by the turnaround success we just experienced at our Strictly Sail Long Beach Show that saw attendance rise 140 percent.”
In all, there were more than 30 of the industry’s major boat shows represented at the NMTC meetings. In all cases, the rise in revenues resulting from stronger demand for exhibit space is being earmarked for increased show advertising and/or better attractions to draw more attendance . . . from a Cirque du Soleil-style show high over the boats in Seattle to special after-show-closing concerts in Cleveland. Everyone agreed there is solid evidence of heightened expectations for the coming winter shows.