Rapid growth for Panama show

30 percent attendance jump in the production’s second year gives organizers reasons for optimism
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Attendance rose nearly 30 percent at the second annual Panama International Boat Show as a spike in the number of boats drew bigger crowds to Flamenco Marina on Flamenco Island, organizers say.

The number of boats in the water and on land shot up 26 percent, and exhibitor participation at the May 29-31 event increased by 28 percent, compared with 2014, the show’s inaugural year.

“I think the enthusiasm of the exhibitors and attendees was as high as I’ve seen at any show,” says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, president of Show Management, the Fort Lauderdale-based company that organizes and produces the show.

“There were people who came multiple days, and people at the show until 10 to 11 o’clock at night — until we had to shut off the lights,” says Zimbalist.

He attributes the rise in attendance and boats to three factors. “First, it takes awhile for the word to get out — two, three, four years until everyone is aware of the show — that would be the case no matter how much you promoted it.”

Second, Show Management made an effort to contact 30 marinas in Panama and the surrounding area with personal invitations to boost awareness and participation, he says. Also, the company concentrated its advertising in Panama and used social media to reach surrounding countries, he says.

The increase in boats and showgoers impressed Jay Jurgens, a salesman for HMY Yacht Sales, who attended last year’s event.

“The foot traffic on Saturday and Sunday was unreal,” says Jurgens, who works out of HMY’s Fort Lauderdale/Dania office. “On Sunday it rained, and we thought that would hurt us, but there was actually more traffic after the rain.”

Jurgens was showing a 2009 Viking 60. He had a Viking 56 (2005) last year. Although he did not sell the boat, Jurgens was able to reconnect with a client — a good, qualified buyer — and they have begun talking business once again. “I saw his two sons at the show, and they said, ‘You really need to call my dad,’ ” says Jurgens.

Jurgens is encouraged about the show’s future, saying Show Management’s effort to put on a quality event has been noticeable.

“We tried to put on the same type of show we do at all our other events,” says Zimbalist. “If that means shipping 10 tents from the States, then we’ll do it.”

Zimbalist commended Flamenco Marina for helping to pull off a successful show. “Miguel and the folks at the marina are great partners, so I want to thank them,” says Zimbalist, referring to marina president Miguel Lopez Pineiro.

Exhibitors made new contacts and “closed numerous deals,” Pineiro said in a statement. “The fact that we were able to not only showcase a compelling exhibition, but also receive confirmation of sold boats and accessories … is extremely satisfying.”

Central America is an important growth market for the marine industry, says exhibitor Steve Ryder, manager of project development for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeast division of Bellingham Marine Industries, the Bellingham, Wash., designer and builder of marinas and docking systems.

“I am happy to see that a high- quality show is being established here — it’s well-organized and well-run,” says Ryder, adding that his company provides the dockage for Flamenco and replaced and expanded the company’s dockage a few years ago. “It felt very similar to the Fort Lauderdale show. It also allowed me to visit with current clients. Yes, it is a retail show, but it helps me connect with regional marine trade people, also.”

Boat brands at the show included Azimut, Hatteras, Viking, Benetti and Pursuit, as well as such yacht brokers as Galati Yachts and HMY. The largest vessel was a Benetti Classic 121.

S2, which owns Tiara and Pursuit, had four Pursuits on hand, including a 365i Sport Coupe, two boats from its Offshore series and a center console, says George Hetzel, S2 Yachts vice president of sales and marketing, who attended. “It was a great social event and a great time to spend some time with your customers,” says Hetzel, adding that the company might expand on the social opportunity next year with a large tent and more refreshments.

Panama Minister of Tourism Jesus Sierra Victoria visited the show, commenting about the strong display of boats and entertainment events. “I was very encouraged with the minister of tourism’s attendance,” says Zimbalist, adding that the government official was enthusiastic about supporting next year’s show financially and by assisting in local regulatory matters.

The show, which also offered fishing clinics and marine accessories, was sponsored by Fuerte Amador Resort & Marina, Flamenco Yacht Club, Cable Onda Sports and Anglers Journal.

Active Interest Media owns Show Management, Anglers Journal and Soundings Trade Only.

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue.

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