The 30th anniversary edition of the Metstrade show, the world’s largest business-to-business recreational marine trade exposition, set a new mark for attendance with 16,307 unique visitors — an increase of 5 percent from 2016.
The gate at the RAI Amsterdam convention center in the Netherlands recorded 24,856 visits during the Nov. 14-16 event, an attendance figure that represented a 5 percent increase year over year. Visitors came from 116 countries, the highest number in the show’s history.
Metstrade attendees included OEMs shopping for construction materials, equipment and accessories to incorporate into their new boat lines; distributors and retailers looking for products to stock their shelves; and boating industry professionals networking and learning about the latest in marine design and technology.
Organizers reported that 10,500 visitors were from outside the Netherlands, a 6 percent increase from 2016. Attendance from the U.S. rose 12 percent from last year.
The show (also known as METS) attracted 1,552 exhibitors, also 5 percent more than in 2016, staffed by about 6,594 people. Each of the 18 country pavilions and three specialist pavilions — the SuperYacht Pavilion, Construction Material Pavilion and Marina & Yard Pavilion — gained new exhibitors this year.
There were 134 U.S. exhibitors at the show. Forty-three had displays spread throughout the exhibition halls, and 11 were in the mini-USA Pavilion that the U.S. Superyacht Association created in the SuperYacht Pavilion. The remaining 80 American exhibitor displays were in the USA Pavilion.
“The USA Pavilion is one of the largest pavilions at METS and has been a fixture at METS from the first show 30 years ago,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This was one of the largest USA pavilions to date, and there continues to be strong interest in the pavilion, even though a few companies ‘graduate’ each year and move into independent displays with European distributors.”
Julie Balzano, the NMMA’s senior director for export development, says the pavilion’s success is expected to continue.
“Before the show even concluded, we were taking requests for orders to either join the USA Pavilion or expand within it,” Balzano says. “I strongly encourage any USA company considering the USA Pavilion at METS18 to contact me sooner rather than later, as I’m fairly confident that demand will outweigh supply for available space. This, in itself, can be considered a testament to the effectiveness of this year’s show.”
Jim George, senior director of global leisure sales at U.S. exhibitor KVH Industries, says his company had a positive experience.
“The METS show gives access to a wide audience outside of the U.S. market,” George says. “As a platform for a U.S.-based company, albeit with a global outlook, METS allows us to get in front of the new and existing EMEA/APAC customer base.”
George says networking opportunities also were strong at the show.
“METS is a great platform for meeting new people and strengthening existing contacts,” he says. “It is the must-attend leisure marine B2B show outside of the U.S. We also use the opportunity to hold a group meeting with KVH’s global distributors, as METS is such an important show for everyone to attend.
“We felt that METS this year had more of a buzz than last year,” he adds. “That could be because our new product launch (TracPhone V7-HTS) at the show attracted so much positive attention, but in talking to other exhibitors, they also felt the buzz in the air of new business.”
The show placed a strong emphasis on preparing for the marine industry’s future. During her welcoming remarks at the Breakfast Briefing on Nov. 14, RAI Amsterdam maritime director Irene Dros invited attendees to visit the show’s new E-nnovationLAB, which had electric and hybrid marine propulsion systems, and the Construction & Material Pavilion, with its Material Xperience, which lets visitors interact with cutting-edge materials.
“Using new sources and materials is not an option — it’s a requirement for future generations,” Dros says.
Mark Schwabero, chairman and CEO of Brunswick Corp., followed Dros to the podium for a forward-looking keynote address. He says Brunswick forecasts that GDP in the global economy will be at or below 3 percent from 2018 through 2020, a level he describes as “not great, but an OK environment to trade in.” He also says that Brunswick, which makes Mercury engines and Sea Ray boats, among other products, expects global marine market unit growth to be in the range of 2 to 4 percent.
“Consumer confidence is at a 10-year high, dealer sentiment is upbeat, the interest-rate and lending environment remains favorable, and there’s an improving business environment in the U.S. and Canada,” Schwabero said of the North American market. “Today’s boaters in their 50s still have lots of years of participation left. [People are] staying active later in life.”
Schwabero also discussed the importance of the fishing market, particularly in the United States, where it is second only to jogging as the most popular outdoor pursuit.
Turning his attention to the future of the marine industry, he urged attendees to “fasten your seat belts,” touching on the millennial generation’s adoption of boat-sharing services, the rising demand for connectivity on board and self-driving boats — all of which Brunswick is supporting through strategic partnerships and research.
After his keynote address, the DAME Award winners for 2017 were announced. The award recognizes “the critical role of design in retaining today’s boat buyers and attracting the next generation.”
Birgit Schnaase, chairwoman of the DAME jury, presented the overall DAME Award for 2017 to Scanstrut for its RS Venture Connect Conversion Kit, which lets people with physical challenges go sailing. The plug-and-play kit fits onto a standard RS Venture sailing dinghy and allows the boat to be adapted.
Another highlight of the show was the IBI/Metstrade Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement, which were presented at a gala on Nov. 15 at the National Maritime Museum after a scenic canal boat ride from RAI Amsterdam.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue.