U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, cut the ribbon of the U.S. pavilion at Metstrade this morning, signaling the opening of the show. Kitty McGowan of USSA sang the national anthem. The U.S. pavilion comprises the largest national group of companies at the annual Amsterdam show. There are 91 companies in the pavilion, with a number of others across the show.
Metstrade this year has about 1,600 exhibitors from 50 countries, up three percent over last year. Organizers said there were 16,620 unique exhibitor badges issued this year. Judging on the higher number of initial registrations, the organizers also expect the number of visitors to exceed last year’s tally of 24,856.
Most exhibitors at the U.S. pavilion seemed to be expecting a good show this year, given the global strength of the boating industry.
“We’ve been attending the show for the last 12 years,” says Vicki Abernathy, chief operating officer of Aere Marine Group of Coral Springs, Florida. “We use the show to meet with our dealers in Europe and conduct new business. We’re also promoting our Aere Marine Group Europe business at this year’s show.”
Aere Marine manufactures more than 40 types of inflatable fenders for a range of boats, from small recreational vessels to two 330-ft. superyachts being constructed at the Feadship and Lurssen shipyards. Aere also makes specialized fender products for boats and marinas as well as fire solutions.
Abernathy says the company has set up a distribution and service center in Italy after looking for several years to find the right partner. The company has five premium dealers internationally and four in the U.S. “We’ve just started working with a dealer in Croatia, so will be more present in that market,” says Abernathy.
Don Gross, president of Groco Marine, a manufacturer of valves, seacocks, marine toilets, pumps and other products, came to Metstrade six years ago. He said what was a nonexistent European business suddenly generated “a lot of money” for his Stevensville, Maryland company.
“It was a nice surprise since we really had no expectations,” says Gross. “We suddenly had an export market and that has continued over the last six years. I don’t have any big expectations or firm targets this year. We just come to the show with the intent to meet new clients and write new business.”
Seann Pavlik, president of Innovative Products, is a first-time exhibitor at Metstrade. Pavlik, a longtime marine manufacturer in Fort Lauderdale, acquired Frigibar this year. He will display products with his other company, Misters Unlimited. The company has a new product called iLatch, which made the shortlist of the Dame awards at Metstrade. It is the industry’s first locking hatch that secures doors or drawers automatically.
Pavlik said the goal for attending the Amsterdam show was to explore new markets in Europe. “We’d like to find a few new dealers across Europe,” he said. “We’ve got meetings with distributors and another one that carries our other lines. We’ll see how it shapes out, but we’re hopeful to make the connections.”
On opening morning, the aisles of the U.S. pavilion were busy with visitors.