CARTAGENA, Colombia — The second annual Cartagena International Boat Show kicks off on Saturday and runs through Monday, and it includes the show’s first U.S. pavilion, which will have 16 companies.
“We’re reaching out to try to expand into some international markets,” Keith Ammons, of Regulator, told Trade Only Today. “The initial research we’ve done shows that Colombia has some potential.”
“I am excited to be on the ground in Cartagena, getting a feel for the city and meeting the locals,” Ammons told Trade Only this morning. “The city reminds me of a cross between New Orleans and St. Croix [in the Virgin Islands]. From the old city walls, one can look out and see some tall ships in port. With the close proximity to the water and the marinas, this place has the potential to become a boaters’ paradise.”
“Colombia appears to be an emerging market for the pleasure boat industry and we want to get in at the ground level to lead the charge for more exports to South America,” said Drew Halford of Malibu Boats. “The Cartagena boat show gives us an opportunity to expose potential buyers to our products and acquire distributors within the country and evaluate the market potential and infrastructure to support our products and industry.”
The pavilion, spearheaded by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, is part of a larger push by the Colombian government to expand the boating industry in the country and city.
Proexport, a government entity in charge of promoting international tourism, foreign investment and nontraditional exports in Colombia, brought an NMMA delegation to the city last summer. For this year’s show it has sponsored journalists (including a reporter from Trade Only Today).
A Proexport employee charged with showing journalists the city’s growing boating infrastructure says the country’s marine industry has grown significantly in just the past year.
Regulator chose Colombia because the brand fares well in rough water, “so from our market research we feel that style of boat will do well in waterways surrounding part of the area,” Ammons said. “That’s one reason we chose that market over some others.”
At least one Colombian has confirmed the region’s potential for Regulator.
“Speaking with a local last night, I learned that a favorite trip was to head south in the morning to the islands, but in the late afternoon the winds pushed the seas to the south and it could be rough coming back,” Ammons said. “I thought to myself, the local boater had not been on a Regulator yet and experienced the legendary ride from Regulator."
Largely surrounded by water, the area is well suited to a thriving boating industry. The city of nearly a million faces the Caribbean Sea to the west; to the south is Cartagena Bay, which has two entrances. Colombia is the only South American country with two seacoasts, one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean.
The port city, which dates from 1533 (4,000 B.C. for indigenous people), had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census. The country is beneath the hurricane zone and has a middle-income population in one of Latin America’s oldest democracies.
Colombia now ranks as the 26th-most-important export market for U.S.-made recreational boats and related equipment, up slightly from 2012. Many factors, including a boating-oriented culture, close geographic proximity to the United States, preferential currency exchange rates, a free trade agreement and the country’s current trading status — the United States is Colombia’s No. 1 trading partner — contribute to an increasing demand in Colombia for U.S. boats and equipment, according to the NMMA.
Read about the Cartagena show in next week’s Trade Only Today and in the May issue of Soundings Trade Only.