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Annapolis show keynote urges industry: ‘Sell the fun’

Sail America held its general members meeting this morning at a new location, the Marriott Hotel, during the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md.

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With about 100 in attendance, executive director Jonathan Banks expressed confidence that the boat show will serve as the beginning of a stronger U.S sailboat industry and marine industry as a whole.

"Attendance is strong at the show. People are more serious about buying and exhibitors are reporting it is a qualified audience," Banks says.

The focus of the meeting, however, was a presentation by keynote speaker Neil Schwartz, director of business development for the research division of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

Schwartz had a simple message for the industry: "Don't sell just boats. Sell the fun and sizzle" - and capitalize on ways to get people onto the water.

"Get butts in boats and make it fun," he said. "If it's not fun, it's work and nobody wants to work."

Schwartz said research clearly indicates that the more often people sail, the less likely they are to leave the sport. "Eight is the magic number," he said. "People who sail more than eight times a year have a much higher likelihood to stay in the sport."

On the business side, Schwartz cited a study conducted with 29 respondents from across the industry.

Seventy-four percent were optimistic about the future, he said. Although respondents see a brighter future, 70 percent think the industry is in a weak state.

His advice to the industry: Expand successful programs and increase access to the water.

- Dieter Loibner

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