Despite talk of a looming economic slowdown and the cloud of tariffs hovering over the boating industry, Anne Dunbar, the director of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference, said the boating industry is as strong as ever.
“Honestly we’ve not seen any drop in attendance,” she told Trade Only Today. “Our exhibitors seem very happy.”
IBEX hosted 705 exhibitors and had five country pavilions, including newcomer Slovenia. Dunbar said she hopes to add two more country pavilions next year, including Poland. She said there were 100 new exhibitors with products, plus 30 boats on the docks.
“It’s becoming like every industry,” Dunbar said. “It’s global. A lot of the U.S. boatbuilders are shipping overseas, and everyone is collaborating on expanding technology and building a better boat.”
She cited evidence of that in the 103 submissions for the IBEX Innovation Awards, which recognized winners in 15 categories.
Dunbar said some of the topics she heard discussed during the show include improving the boating experience and building better, safer boats. Attendees couldn’t help but notice the two Playcraft pontoon boats parked in front of the show, including one with a custom stereo by Waves and Wheels Marine Audio. “Pontoon boats out there with the sound systems and improved performance are a game-changing experience for Americans,” Dunbar said.
Official attendance wasn’t available, but Dunbar estimates it was up by about 20 percent. “We’re bursting at the seams here,” she said. “We’ve talked to the Tampa Convention Center about this. The city of Tampa is expanding pretty aggressively. By 2021, with three or four new hotel properties, we can see the value of participating in IBEX increasing. The location is spectacular, they’re excellent partners, and we’re hoping to stay.”