Providence show sees attendance boost in fewer days

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There were more than 140 exhibitors at the three-day show at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

There were more than 140 exhibitors at the three-day show at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

The Providence Boat Show, held Feb. 3-5, saw a 10 percent increase in attendance despite compressing the show from four to three days.

Held inside the Rhode Island Convention Center, the Providence show drew more than 140 exhibitors and offered free seminars, an indoor pool and brokerage listings.

“One of our biggest challenges we face as an industry is getting new people involved in boating — and that is something the Providence show is perfectly suited for,” Rhode Island Marine Trades Association CEO Wendy Mackie said in a statement.

RIMTA owns and produces the show.

“We focused on affordable ways to get out on the water in our marketing — and the success of that strategy proved that a small regional show like ours can be a strong marketing opportunity for the marine trades while also helping to cultivate new boaters,” Mackie added.

Stand-up paddleboard demos in the show’s indoor pool were a centerpiece of the show. Guy Gauvin, of East Coast Paddle Sports, said interest in SUPs was high and his company exceeded its sales targets, with 17 sales and eight additional leads as the show closed.

Gauvin noted that about half of those buyers were already boaters looking for a rigid or inflatable board to put on their boat; the other half were people who were new to the sport and making their first boating purchase.

Al Elson, of Striper Marina, who showcased models from Cobia, Key West and Pursuit, said he saw a sharp increase in sales versus last year.

Jack Martone of Wood Boat & Motor, who showcased models from Campion, Carolina Skiff and Clearwater, said he left the show with nine boat sales and multiple engine sales.

“Our sales results this year were like the results we used to have 10 years ago at this show,” Martone said.

RIMTA hosted an industry breakfast on the opening morning of the show. A crowd of marine trades professionals packed the event to see RIMTA give its John H. Chafee Boater of the Year Award to Kate Wilson.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Scott Jensen, director of the state Department of Labor and Training, also spoke at the event, which included a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session on workforce challenges and solutions in the marine trades.

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