Sail America conference touts number of first-time attendees

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Organizers said the biennial Sail America Industry Conference wrapped up a productive two days last week in Milwaukee.

“With sailing, learning, brainstorming and laughing, what was the best part of the Sail America industry Conference?” Sail America president and West Marine regional VP Jim Abel said in a statement. “The people.”

Conferees were from Washington, Tennessee, Rhode Island, California and other states and nearly a third were first-time participants.

The conference started on May 31 with an industry regatta featuring competition in six Ensigns on Lake Michigan. On June 1 and 2, conferees were treated to a mix of marketing ideas from outside the industry, insightful data from within the industry and a brainstorming session designed to work on common challenges, organizers said.

The final day featured keynote speaker Bill Wagner of ARI Leadership, who shared ideas about the marine industry’s digital marketing.

“You now have the ability to reach your customer 24/7,” Wagner said. “It’s an unprecedented opportunity.”

The day before, Heather Idema of Bonnier Corp, publisher of Sailing and Cruising World, introduced “the Sailor’s Voice,” new data from a study conducted exclusively for the conference earlier this spring.

Among the findings, respondents’ concerns for future participation include higher costs, environmental concerns and rules and regulations. They define themselves as advocates for sailing, mentors, influencers and educators, and 13 percent of them sail with a pet.

“The conference was full of useful ideas and actionable content,” Beneteau America president Laurent Fabre said.

Sail America association manager Katie Kelly said the next SAIC will be held in 2019 with the dates and location to be announced.

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