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IBEX 2015: Attendance drops in return to Louisville

IBEX attendance in Louisville, Ky., was down 31.8 percent from the 2014 show in Tampa, Fla.,
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There were 4,700 attendees this year at IBEX in Louisville, Ky., compared with 6,900 at last year’s event in Tampa, Fla.

There were 4,700 attendees this year at IBEX in Louisville, Ky., compared with 6,900 at last year’s event in Tampa, Fla.

This may have been the last year for the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference in Louisville, Ky., as attendance this year was down 31.8 percent from the 2014 show in Tampa, Fla., and flat with attendance from the 2013 show in Louisville.

The number of exhibitors also dropped slightly — 2.3 percent — from last year.

“All the right people were here,” show director Anne Dunbar told Trade Only Thursday night. “IBEX consistently delivers the right people, but we anticipated because the economy is better than in 2013 that we would have seen an increase. So that makes us question whether Louisville is the right fit for IBEX.”

There were 4,700 attendees at this year’s event in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center, compared with 6,900 in 2014 at the Tampa Convention Center. There were 545 exhibitors (and 110 of them were new to the show) this year and 558 exhibitors in 2014.

The IBEX planning committee was meeting today to gather exhibitor and boatbuilder feedback about this year's event and begin to determine whether organizers should opt out of the plan for shows in Louisville in 2017 and 2019. IBEX will be held in Tampa in 2016 and 2018, and organizers have the right of first refusal to hold the 2017 and 2019 shows in Tampa, as well, said Dunbar.

“Nothing has been decided,” said Dunbar. “We have to see the data — who came and from where. We have a lot more data to cull through to make any final decision. We have to talk to our exhibitors to gather their feelings.”

At issue also is whether IBEX should be held in two locations, as was the plan with Tampa and Louisville, said Dunbar. “Do we need to rotate back and forth, or is one location better?”

IBEX was held in Louisville in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Last year the show was held in Tampa. IBEX was moved to Louisville five years ago from Miami Beach for its central location to make it easier for more industry professionals to attend, said Dunbar.

“This was our fifth year [in Louisville], and we have given this a solid try, and we are not seeing any growth,” said Dunbar. “We like to see growth, and we would like to know that we are serving our demographic — that all the boatbuilders can come here easily. Are all of the people we came up here [from Miami] to serve supporting the show to the level we would expect them? Based on the numbers, we are not seeing that. And yet, when we go to Tampa we see full support from the entire Southern demographic. Tampa makes a lot of sense for the show and Louisville has to be revisited.”

Dunbar anticipates that a decision will be made “certainly in the next few months, but probably sooner.”

The 2016 IBEX is scheduled to take place at the Tampa Convention Center from Oct. 4-6.


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