Large boat shows concluded last weekend in Houston, Atlanta and Chicago, and organizers were upbeat about the results in all three cities.
Organizers of the 62nd annual Houston International Boat, Sport & Travel Show, which opened Jan. 6 and ended last Sunday at NRG Center, said attendance was up 9 percent overall from 2016.
For the second year in a row, the show suspended operations on its first Saturday, one day after it opened, because of a Houston Texans NFL playoff game. However, show president Ken Lovell said the foot traffic when the show reopened increased 21 percent from the previous year.
“Everyone was excited about the turnout and the number of serious boat buyers and people ready to purchase all the other outdoors-related products that the show has to offer,” Lovell said in a statement.
“We seemed to have a lot of out-of-state visitors, particularly from our bordering states, but I even heard about a gentleman who traveled to the show from Minnesota to buy a boat. The fact that it is the nation’s largest indoor boat show and runs longer than most tends to attract out-of-state residents.”
The National Marine Manufacturers Association said the Progressive Insurance Atlanta Boat Show closed on Sunday with a final attendance of 22,732, down 9 percent from 25,167 last year.
The NMMA attributed the downturn to the city’s last-minute decision to give all convention center parking to the Atlanta Falcons for their home NFL playoff game on Saturday afternoon. Parking rates increased from $10 to $35 as a result.
The NMMA said attendance was up 16 percent going into Saturday, but Saturday attendance was down 46 percent. Attendance was up 48 percent on Sunday.
“Great show. We sold a lot of boats in all categories. We sold Chaparral, Moomba and pontoons. Sunday was definitely ski boat day!” said Kurt Backs, of Atlanta Marine.
“We saw steady traffic all weekend. I had a great Sunday and we sold a lot of boats. You guys do a great job,” said Eric Williams, of Holiday Harbor.
The NMMA said the Progressive Insurance Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show closed Sunday after a five-day run with a final attendance of 46,670, down 1 percent from 47,359 last year.
The NMMA said the show has had consistent attendance during the past three years and has grown to more than 600 boats and nearly 100 RVs. Reports from exhibitors talked of strong sales, great crowds and promising leads.
“A lot of consumer confidence and excitement in product and the sport of boating in Chicago,” said Mary Jo Munson, of Munson Ski & Marine. “We met many first-time boaters and lake home owners. This show far exceeded our expectations!”
“Having a presence in the show helped us break into the market,” said Andy Ingarra, of BRP. “Our retail is up, and our consumer response far and away exceeded our expectations coming into the show.”
Three more shows are being held this weekend — the Progressive Insurance Nashville Boat & Sportshow, the Progressive Insurance Minneapolis Boat Show and the Progressive Insurance Kansas City Boat & Sportshow.
The shows opened Thursday and will continue through Sunday.