Attendance at the 31st annual Suncoast Boat Show jumped 17 percent and exhibitor revenue increased by 9 percent, according to the producers of the show.
The event, held April 19-21 in Sarasota, Fla., featured a combined 155 new and used boats in the water — an increase from 133 last year, according to Show Management. In addition, the number of exhibitors increased 2 percent. There were more boats on land this year, compared with last year, but specific numbers were unavailable.
The number of new boats displayed in the water increased by 25 percent, with the brunt of that increase consisting of boats under 45 feet. This year there was a 28 percent increase in new boats under 45 feet in the water.
Some boat dealers and manufacturers characterize Suncoast as a small show, but one with fewer tire-kickers.
“At both the Palm Beach [International Boat Show] and here we find more qualified buyers — and for us, we have to have qualified buyers,” said Jennifer Richards, sales director of The Hinckley Company. “The show draws these folks because parking is easier. It is easier to get to than a show in a more urban area. The people who buy our boats are not going to want to fight crowds or take a shuttle bus to get to a show.”
This was the first Suncoast show for Scott Hanson, owner of Rossiter Boats in Ontario, Canada.
“There are a lot of well-heeled boaters who have experience on the water and they know what they are looking for,” Hanson said. “They recognize good quality in terms of fit and fitness and overall construction and design.”
Hanson sold one of his boats — a 17-foot center console — to a couple from Sarasota, he said. “We have had a lot of interest in the whole line, which is exciting.”
Jupiter Marine showcased its new 41 express sportboat with triple 350-hp Yamaha outboards and Helm Master joystick helm control. The company, known for its open fishing boats, prior to the show sold hull No. 1, and hull No. 2 was for sale in Sarasota for $734,000 retail.
“A lot of our customers want to go farther and have more protection from the weather,” Albrecht said. “This is a big change for us, but came about through customer demand, certainly.”
Boaters interested in the 41 have been those stepping down from larger boats and looking to simplify their boating, Albrecht said. “We are seeing customers who are coming out of a 60- to 70-foot sportfishing boat and want a boat they can take — and take by themselves — to the same destinations they went to in their bigger boat.”
Recent enhancements to the MyBoatShow smartphone app — designed to help explore the show's docks, land tents and transportation — helped showgoers navigate their way around the event, which was held at Marina Jack on Sarasota Bay. The show is produced by Show Management, which is owned by Active Interest Media, the company that owns Soundings Trade Only.
— Chris Landry