The International Marina and Boatyard Conference kicked off last night. The Association of Marina Industries said that the event had strong pre-registration numbers and sold-out pre-conference events.
“If we get the regular walk-in crowd, this year would match the best attendance numbers ever,” Jim Frye, vice president of Westrec Marinas and president emeritus of AMI, told Trade Only Today. “The exhibit hall is sold out this year and there are a substantial number of first-time vendors on the floor.”
Frye says the marina segment is healthy, evidenced by high occupancy slip rates and consolidation trends across the industry. “We’ve seen new groups like Oasis move into the space and there are a number of other companies with multiple marinas—three, five, eight—that most people aren’t aware of,” he says.
On the expo floor, exhibitors were looking to increase contacts over the next few days. Brent Wierson, chief executive of Stellar IMS, which produces a marina rental reservation system, said the show also provides an opportunity to showcase new system developments. At his booth, Wierson showed attendees how the tablet-based system facilitated boat rentals and marina bookings. There are currently 85 locations using the Stellar system.
Attending IMBC for the third year, Wierson said he has not seen any new competitors move into the electronic boat-rental management space. “This industry tends to be about five years behind many other industries,” he says.
Freedom Boat Club is attending IMBC as both an exhibitor and interested buyer, according to CEO John Giglio. “We’ve found this a good way to connect with marina groups or other owners that might be interested in the boat club concept,” says Giglio. “It’s a great way to get the concept in front of the industry.” With its own marinas, Freedom is also walking the show floor looking for new products and ideas.
IMBC started today with a presentation by former AMI executives to NMMA President Thom Dammrich for his contributions to the marina industry. “Without Thom’s leadership, marinas would not have had a seat at the table with dealers and builders,” said Bill Anderson, the first AMI chairman. “His leadership lifted marinas on an even par with every other segment.”
Dammrich said he knew from the start of his tenure that marinas were important to the long-term success of the boating industry.
“It wasn’t until later that I put the different parts of the industry into a model that made sense for me,” said Dammrich, following a standing ovation. “The boating industry is an eco-system with many parts. The success of that eco-system depends on each individual part. If one’s in trouble, the whole system is in trouble. All sections need to support each other if we’re going to maximize the success of the boating industry—and ultimately boating in general.”
The awards presentation was followed by a keynote by John Spence called “Creating a Culture of Purpose.” Spence will also hold a seminar on IMBC Best Practices. During the day, there will be breakout sessions on “Marina Infrastructure Grant Funding;” “Going Beyond the American Disabilities Act;” The Business and Politics of Workforce Development;” and “Top Trends Impacting Marina Infrastructure.”
There will also be other seminars during the afternoon. Exhibitors Onboard, SpeedyDock and Dockwa will also hold product demonstrations.