Ted Bodtmann, president of Si-Tex Marine Electronics in Riverhead, N.Y., attended the Metstrades show in Amsterdam for the first time last year.
“I didn’t know what to expect. We were busy every day and had solid leads,” says Bodtmann. “One thing about the show is the quality of the visitors. They’re all very serious businessmen and decision makers.”
This year is the 30th anniversary of Metstrade, an international business-to-business exhibition for the recreational marine industry. It takes place Nov. 14-16 at the RAI Amsterdam Convention Center, and the Superyacht Pavilion is sold out with a waiting list. The Marina & Yard Pavilion and Construction and Material Pavilion were close to being fully booked, and overall event organizers say this year’s edition was at 95 percent of capacity as of early September.
The 2016 Metstrade show covered 11 halls at the convention center, with 1,471 exhibiting companies and a total of 23,702 visits. More than 110 nationalities were represented and 64 percent were international visitors. In 2016, Metstrade organizer RAI Amsterdam acquired a 50 percent share of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, the American equivalent of Metstrade, to further enhance its global reach.
“While these statistics make for impressive reading, they do not tell the whole story behind the success of Metstrade,” says Irene Dros, RAI Amsterdam’s maritime Metstrade manager. “The event may be the biggest of its kind, and the amount of business conducted is unprecedented for the marine industry. But it is the atmosphere that many people remember most as professionals gather to share information and attend all kinds of functions.”
The value of face time
Armstrong Nautical Products is a Stuart, Fla.-based company that has been exhibiting in the USA Pavilion at Metstrade since 2004. The company had been participating in an e-commerce store and noticed that it was getting global inquiries. Making the decision to exhibit at Metstrade so attendees could see the company’s outboard brackets and climb on its boarding ladders made all the difference.
“One of the things that’s so important to doing business globally is the face time we get,” says Rusty Sedlack, vice president and co-owner of Armstrong Nautical Products. “We love to have our products there. Potential customers actually climb the ladders.”
Additional evidence of Metstrade’s reach: Sedlack says he sees his distributors from New Zealand and Australia every year at the show. “It would be difficult for us to reach out to that extent to all those folks,” he explains. “METS is to me like a marine industry concentrate. There are a number of adult buyers there, engineering, purchasing agents. They’re all there for a purpose.”
Another benefit that Sedlack and Armstrong co-owner Janie Vallery got to experience firsthand is being the recipient of a DAME Design Award. In 2009 Armstrong Nautical took home a category award for its RIB boarding ladder. Press and TV crews from a number of countries visited the Armstrong booth to get a closer look.
The coveted DAMEs
The DAME Design Awards are an important part of Metstrade. They focus on the art and science of design in all aspects — from styling to functionality to innovation and more. A panel of naval architects, designers and user experts judge products submitted for the awards. In 2016 there were seven category winners, with the Torqeedo Cruise FP electric motor taking the top prize.
In addition to recognizing innovation, the DAME Design Awards also help a local charity. Every year, Metstrade organizers invite charities to apply for the proceeds from the competition. In even-numbered years, including 2016, the charity has always been AMREF Flying Doctors. In odd-numbered years, a maritime-related charity is selected.
The Boat Builder Awards, first handed out in 2015, recognize individual and team success within boatbuilding companies globally across the eight categories of business achievement. Nomination is open to all recreational marine industry professionals.
All of the products nominated for 2017 DAME awards and for the Boat Builder Awards will be showcased in the InnovationLAB, a centrally located stage that focuses on innovation. It also hosts seminars, workshops, debates and presentations and features a newsroom where film crews can record interviews.
For some manufacturers the thought of participating in an international event can be intimidating, so the individual nation-backed pavilions help. There are 20 such pavilions, established by nations that have membership in the International Council of Marine Industry Associations, which is why the NMMA runs the U.S. Pavilion.
Although English is the dominant language spoken at Metstrade, the manufacturers find comfort being in an area with businesses from the same country. For 2017 the organization is partnering with the U.S. Superyacht Association to have the USSA/NMMA pavilion with the Superyachts Pavilion, which has been one of the most popular exhibits at METS Trade.
The NMMA also gets support from the U.S. Department of Commerce because Metstrade meets all of the criteria for the endorsement of the department. “Anyone considering it shouldn’t be intimidated because it’s an international show,” says Si-Tex’s Bodtmann.
“METS is by far the most important international trade event for recreational boating, as far as equipment and accessories are concerned,” says Julie Balzano, senior director of export development for the NMMA.
From the start, the NMMA has seen the value of Metstrade. “The USA Pavilion has been in existence since the show started,” says Balzano. For this year, the USA Pavilion is in Hall 12 with 80 exhibitors. Added events for attendees from the United States include a before METS dinner sponsored by the state of Tennessee in partnership with the Department of Commerce. The focus of the dinner will be changes in the European Union market and the value-added tax.
Focused design areas
In addition to the national pavilions, Mestrade 2017 has a number of focused design areas. The E-nnovationLAB Showcase is an exhibition area that showcases technologies and manufacturers of electric and hybrid marine propulsion systems and components for the recreational boating industry.
“This new feature will take industry showcases and high-tech product developments in the field of new [electric and hybrid] propulsion methods to the next level,” says Dros. “This will only get bigger, as sustainability and innovation go hand in hand. We expect revolutionary developments in areas such as 3D printing, new propulsion methods, such as hybrid and electronic developments, and the use of natural energy sources to transcend branch level.”
For those interested in learning more about boat manufacturing, the Construction and Material Pavilion features more than 125 materials from around the world. The Marina and Yard Pavilion will showcase exhibits for use in marinas and boatyards.
The Superyacht Group is introducing a new event that includes the Superyacht Design Week, the Superyacht Management Meetings, the Superyacht Owner’s Summit, Make Your Mark and the Global Superyacht Forum. This meeting will cover all sectors of the superyacht market.
“These types of events further facilitate the sense of purpose at the Metstrade show itself,” says Dros. “This is supported by strong and global partnerships with research centers, universities and other players who enable us to stay up to speed with the latest knowledge.” To start the festivities in Amsterdam, Mark Schwabero, CEO and chairman of Brunswick Corp. (parent to Mercury Marine, Sea Ray, Bayliner and other brands) will be the keynote speaker at a breakfast meeting Nov. 14. His presentation will be titled “Global Marine Trends and Opportunities.”
Si-Tex’s Bodtmann says that attending Metstrade 2016 taught him what his company needed to do to become a player overseas. He estimated that he came away with 35 good leads last year, but the lack of a distribution center in Europe was a big stumbling block. Si-Tex opened a distribution center in Italy about three months ago and will have European representatives on hand. “It’s too late in the season for 2017 business, but it’s perfect for METS,” says Bodtmann.
Longtime Metstrade attendee Sedlack says the show makes it easy for someone who is interested in getting into the international market to test the waters. “The more [people] see you there, the more they realize that you’re serious about doing business internationally.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.