EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S CORNER
ANOTHER STRONG YEAR FOR SAILBOAT SHOWS!
With the boat show season coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on the success of the various sailboat shows, as well as those shows that have a strong sailing presence (e.g. Newport International Boat Show and the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show).
Boat shows continue to play a critical role for the sailing industry, and the strong attendance we've experienced at most of the shows over the past year indicates that boat shows are still very relevant to today’s consumer. Unlike many power boat shows, sailboat shows offer much more than a product showcase. Seminars, special events, boat rides, and interactive displays help to create a fun and informative environment that promotes the sailing lifestyle and creates “must attend” events.
Without question, boat shows have experienced challenging times over the past three years but, despite these challenges, the industry and boat show producers have done a tremendous job at supporting the shows and keeping interest in sailing alive. Starting with the Newport International Boat Show in the fall of 2010 to the recently completed Strictly Sail Pacific show, most of the shows reported positive gains in attendance and space sales, and the majority of exhibitors reported an upbeat mood among consumers.
Boat shows are part of Sail America’s DNA. Over the years, Sail America has owned or produced some of the nation’s top sailboat shows, including the original Sail Expo shows and the Strictly Sail shows in St. Pete, Oakland, Philadelphia, Liberty Landing, Chicago and Miami. More recently, Sail America has created strong relationships and partnerships with the Annapolis, Newport and St. Pete shows. Today, Sail America owns and produces the Strictly Sail Pacific show and has agreements with NMMA and Show Management to actively promote and endorse Strictly Sail Chicago, Strictly Sail Miami and the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show. Sail America also works closely with the United States Yacht Shows and the Newport Exhibition Group to help promote their respective shows. Our partnerships are strong and we look forward to the upcoming boat show season.
The Newport International Boat Show kicked off the fall boat show circuit with a reported 10% gain in attendance and “big crowds, great weather, lots of marine industry exhibitors, and a rising level of boat and boating product sales.” By most accounts, exhibitors were pleased with the show and commented on an upswing in consumer sentiment. Sail America ran a very successful Discover Sailing program that saw a record number of participants.
Next up was the United States Sailboat Show that was held in Annapolis in early October. This premier event attracted more than 50,000 sailing enthusiasts from around the world, posting attendance gains of over 10 percent. The show featured the official debut of 24 new sailboats and many exhibitors reported double-digit sales growth. Sail America and the United States Yacht Shows teamed up to launch the “Best in Show” awards, which recognized exhibitors for excellence in presenting their products and services. Congratulation to the winners: Harken Sebago, Topaz and Beneteau.
Now in its third year, the 2010 St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, which is co-produced by Sail America and Show Management, is the largest in-water boat show on Florida’s gulf coast. Based on feedback from exhibitors, the show exceeded expectations and served up a nice helping of new business. Sailing was well represented at the show and there was strong attendance at Sail America’s seminar and Discover Sailing programs. The new combined power and sail format continues to be the right approach for this market.
Strictly Sail Chicago, which ran Jan. 27-30, saw a two percent increase in attendance over 2010, with reports of dozens of sailboats sold plus strong retail sales. The 2011 show witnessed strong attendance, serious buyers, and happy exhibitors. Strictly Sail Chicago continues to be the seminar “Mecca”, with 65 speakers, 96 topics and a total of 194 seminars. Total seminar attendance eclipsed 9,000.
For 2010, Strictly Sail Miami moved back to it traditional Bayside location. This move was welcomed by exhibitors and attendees alike, resulting in significant gains in exhibitor space sales and attendance. When compared with 2009 (the last time Strictly Sail Miami was held at the Bayside location), attendance in 2011 was down by only 8%, which is not bad considering the general disappointment with the Sea Isle location in 2010.
Finally, the recently completed Strictly Sail Pacific show was a resounding success, posting a 20% gain in space sales, a 10% increase in attendance, and a 5% increase in seminar attendance. The show added many new features – America’s Cup Day, VIP Day, DIY Demo Tent, interactive seminars, and the Discover Sailing learning center. Read more about Strictly Sail Pacific in this issue of Sail America News. Strictly Sail Pacific is going from strength to strength and we look forward to an even stronger show next year.
In conclusion, the state of sailboat shows is strong and they have weathered the recession remarkably well when compared with other non-sail shows. Kudos to the show producers for their continued efforts and to the exhibitors for their unwavering support of the shows.
The Sail America Show Committee, headed up by Stanton Murray, is continually looking for ways to improve the sailboat shows and add value for exhibitors and attendees. Please email Stanton Murray or me with your thoughts and comments at either SMurray@MurrayYachtSales.com or JBanks@sailamerica.com.