It’s always good when the motorcade arrives, and at the inaugural Panama International Boat Show that moment came when the country’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, paid a visit.
Martinelli had recently taken delivery of a 105-foot Azimut and was curious to see what the show had to offer. “He’s looking forward to retirement soon to use his boat, purchased from Evermarine Yacht Sales,” which had a display at the show, says Andrew Doole, senior vice president and COO of producer Show Management. (Soundings Trade Only and Show Management are owned by Active Interest Media.)
Doole says he was pleased with the manufacturer presence and the support from local dealers who displayed at the show, which was held June 20-22 at the Flamenco Marina near downtown Panama City.
Exhibitors and attendees seemed pleased with the kickoff show, Doole says. “We had a good crowd on Saturday and Sunday,” he says. “Some boats were sold, and I think a lot of contacts were made. There were manufacturers there also looking for dealers, so there was a lot of B2B activity going on, too. Everybody seemed happy.”
“We were very pleased with the turnout,” says Lou Sola, of Evermarine, which represents Benetti, Azimut, Bertram, Tiara and Boston Whaler. “We had three displays at the show, and interest was so strong on Saturday that we ended up running out of staff to greet all the people who came out. We had a very good display, and it was wonderful to show everyone what we do on a daily basis.”
Visitors traveled from various regions in Panama, and from Colombia and Venezuela. “It created a lot of awareness around the city. And it’s always good when a motorcade arrives,” Doole says of Martinelli’s appearance, emphasizing that the presidential visit strengthened interest in Evermarine.
In addition to boats in the water and on land, marine accessories and services, attendees enjoyed an air-conditioned cocktail lounge with a live feed to World Cup soccer. There also was an impressive car display, featuring the latest models from Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, Jeep, Range Rover, Ford and Volkswagen. “Some [exhibitors] were saying it was a lot better than they had expected,” Doole says. “Some were a little hesitant about coming to the first show, and they were all happy with the way the show went, looked, the quality of the crowd. There were a lot of qualified buyers in the crowd, so that’s what counts.”
Intrepid Boats sales vice president Christian Gonzales said the day before the show opened that things were better organized than he expected. “Show Management seems to be doing a great job organizing this,” Gonzales said. “There are more exhibitors than I thought.”
Gonzales says Intrepid wanted to be at the show because the company is expanding its presence in Central and South America. “Those markets are starting to pick up steam, so we thought, what better way to do so than at this first Panama show?”
Doole says all of the exhibit space on land and in tents was sold out. “I think [exhibitors] are surprised and happy to see the way the tents are set up,” he says. “We brought them from the United States, and they’re floored and carpeted. We’re happy and proud of this show. We’ve got boats in the water that range from 30 to a couple hundred feet. So it’s a good cross-section, and a lot of sportfish boats.
“There were lots who came down and supported dealers with booths, even if they didn’t have a boat on display,” Doole adds. “A lot of builders came down and worked the show with their local representative. That was great to see.”
“This great event culminated with resounding success,” says Jorge Asmar, commercial manager of passenger vehicles at AutoStar Panama. “We were pleased to introduce and sell our Mercedes-Benz, Jeep and Dodge vehicles and proud to have sponsored the show.”
A VIP event at the marina featured fireworks. Sponsor Mercedes-Benz was pleased with the event and the show, Doole says.
“We’re all very, very pleased with the partnership of Flamenco Marina in getting the show off the ground this year,” Dane Graziano, COO and senior vice president of Show Management, said before the show opened. “I think it is going to surprise everyone, the way we do things, as far as the quality of the show since it’s the first year. The displays are beautiful, and all the dealers are really impressed with the way the show is coming together.”
Flamenco Marina once was three islands. “It used to be a U.S. base that would check boats coming in and out of the Panama Canal,” Gonzales says. “The islands were completely filled in, and that’s basically how they united the three islands together and made this beautiful marina.”
Doole says a new addition was built onto the marina for the show. “They only just completed it, so this is its inauguration,” he says. “It looks great. We’ve got a great backdrop of the city and mountains in the background, so it’s a very pretty show site.”
There was also excitement among locals, according to Gonzales, who says he heard buzz at the airport and in cabs about the new event. A VIP kickoff on June 19 helped generate more chatter.
“I think Panamanians are excited we’re producing a show in their country,” Doole says. “Sales activity here seems to be growing, which is obviously great. Some of the boats we were expecting to come to the show were sold prior to the opening, so they’re being replaced with others. We’re excited to see what happens during the show, with buyers coming in from Venezuela and Colombia and Panama.”
Show Management will meet with exhibitors and Flamenco Marina owners to determine the dates of next year’s show. Already organizers say they want to open and close the show later in 2015.
“We’re just looking forward to doing a bigger and better show next year,” Doole says. “We got off to a solid start this year. I think we have a great event to build on for next year.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue.