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Colombian show sees growth in exhibitors

CARTAGENA, Colombia — About 4,000 visitors were expected at the growing Cartagena International Boat Show, reflecting growth in the recreational boating industry in the country during the show’s second year.

Show organizer Juan Pablo Hernandez told Trade Only Today at Saturday’s opening that there were substantially more exhibitors than last year’s 40 — including 16 first-time exhibitors at the new U.S. pavilion organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The show continues through today.

With the country’s culture and coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean that have several major ports, the country is poised to develop the pleasure boating industry, said Santiago Rojas, Colombia’s minister of tourism, industry and commerce.

“In Colombia now, we see tourism as one of the main sources of employment,” Rojas told Trade Only at the show. “Nautical tourism and all of the industry around this is very important. Having cities on two seas means we have to work very closely to increase our nautical industry in the country.”

The region has provided opportunities for JL Audio, which is trying to expand its marine presence globally. Last year the company grew 15 to 20 percent because of its increase in the marine space, said Jorge Pardo, of JL Audio. Latin American countries provide additional opportunities, and the company has been working with four or five boatbuilders in Colombia.

“Here yachts are not owned by the elderly,” Pardo said. “It’s important to have sound. The industry is continually growing, and especially now that the dollar is stable, you’ve got a boom of richer people. It’s part of our culture to be loud, to have fun and spend time with family and friends.”

“Recreational boating is growing. It’s in its best moment historically,” Pardo added. “This show is twice as big as it was last year.”

Contacts have been key at the show, particularly in a region that needs more infrastructure to keep up with the growing industry, said Andrew Gibbs, project development manager for Bellingham Marine.

“The best part of this trade show was all the government contacts because that’s really how all these marina projects live and die — permitting,” Gibbs said Sunday. “We’re hoping to get a marine trade association going, hopefully with someone who is ex-government so they know the ins and outs of the process. They need a marine trades association to help advocate for growth.”

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