By nearly every acceptable measure the 2016 edition of the METS Trade show was the most successful in the 28-year history of the international marine equipment trade event.
With 1,471 exhibitors and 23,702 visitors coming from more than 110 countries, the show exceeded even the most optimistic projections. The total number of “unique” visitors rose 8 percent from the 2015 show, to 15,541. They represented 11,091 companies — an increase of 7.5 percent, according to RAI Amsterdam, the show’s owner and producer.
“I can say that this year’s METS Trade exceeded even my expectations,” says Irene Dros, RAI maritime manager of the show. “The positive feedback we have received from exhibitors and attendees has been overwhelming.”
The 29th annual METS ran from Nov. 15-17 at the sprawling RAI complex in Amsterdam. This year’s event more than lived up to its billing as the world’s largest marine equipment trade show, drawing comparisons from many who attended the former IMTEC trade event that was held annually in Chicago until the late 1990s, according to Dros.
This year, RAI expanded METS by adding an extra hall to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors. A new floor layout was required, as well, because of an expansion of several specialized pavilions, including the Marina and Yard Pavilion, SuperYacht Pavilion and Construction Material Pavilion. The entire show encompassed more than 11 halls — almost the entire RAI complex — and covered more than 75,400 square feet.
Feedback from attendees and exhibitors interviewed during and after the event was positive overall.
“As a first-time visitor to METSTrade this year, the initial impression that came to mind was scale; the amount of countries represented was impressive,” says Kristina Hebert, COO of Ward’s Marine Electric Inc. in Fort Lauderdale.
“The technical presentations from various sources were outstanding, and the large display of equipment was great to see. The overall energy in the show was positive, and they definitely remain true to the show’s mission of inspiration and innovation. I had the opportunity to meet lots of new faces and reconnect with plenty of friendly ones. On my return home the exhibitors all had positive feedback and feel the ROI is there and the experience worthwhile. We would definitely be attending again.”
Added Paul Westhorpe, managing director of Glidecoat in West Palm Beach, Fla.: “Given that it was our first show, we were really impressed with the caliber of leads. Over the three days we collected 42 well-qualified leads from both manufacturers and distribution partners across more than 13 countries.
“Our primary goal was to meet distribution partners for Glidecoat Products, and we have already received verbal commitments from distributors in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Germany,” Westhorpe says. “It is hard to place a number on what it will generate in revenues, but my guess would be in excess of $250,000 annually. It was well worth it, and the team from NMMA were awesome.”
The Trump effect
New this year was the METS Trade Theater “powered by Soundings Trade Only” and designed to give exhibitors a venue where they could present their products and services. “We are proud to sponsor this new stage, which gives great visibility to any exhibitor who wants to book it for a presentation,” says Soundings Trade Only publisher Dean Waite.
During a presentation, “What Can Trump Mean to METS Trade?” George Sass Jr., vice president and managing director of Catapult Creative Labs, paraphrased Gordon Gekko in the film “Wall Street:” “Once again in the U.S., greed is good,” Sass said. (Catapult Creative Labs and Soundings Trade Only are part of Active Interest Media.)
Sass, who prepared his presentation by polling Catapult clients about Trump’s likely impact on the American marine marketplace, offered several predictions about the Trump presidency.
“Discretionary wealth will likely increase for affluent households,” Sass said. “Expect tax breaks for the wealthy.” He predicted that boaters who have shown a post-recession reluctance to openly display their wealth by owning a boat are likely to change their attitude. He injected a note of caution about the Trump era, however, saying, “Trade and tariff policies are a wild card. … The uncertainty of Trump is the new certainty.” However, he said, Catapult’s clients largely are optimistic about the boating market in the near future.
Jonathan Dorn, AIM senior vice president and senior vice president, digital and creative services, for Catapult, gave a presentation on the suite of marketing services Catapult offers.
Major awards presented
Award presentations included the 26th annual DAME Awards and the Boat Builder Awards.
Winners in seven DAME Award categories were announced at the breakfast briefing that kicked off METS. These included the overall 2016 DAME Design Award, which recognizes innovation..
Electric marine engine manufacturer Torqeedo GmbH won that award for its Cruise FP range of electric saildrives. Torqeedo also took top honors in the Machinery, Propulsion, Mechanical and Electrical Systems and Fittings DAME Awards category.
Additional DAME category winners were:
- Marine Electronics & Marine Related Software — Airmar Technology for its DX900+ Multilog, the marine industry’s first Bluetooth-enabled, multifunctional sensor;
- Interior Equipment, Furnishings, Materials and Electrical Fittings Used in Cabins — B.C.M Illuminazione for its Jolly Roger reading lamp with an adjustable magnetic reflector;
- Marina Equipment, Sails and Rigging — Harken Inc., for its Air Winch with performance optimization gear sets;
- Lifesaving and Safety Equipment — Securitag SAS for its Sea-Tags MOB alarm system, which connects via smartphone and requires no on-board installation.
- Marina Equipment, Boatyard Equipment and Boat Construction Tools and Materials — TruDesign for its Skin Fitting Installation Tools, which enable all installation of through-hull skin fitting to be carried out by one person;
- Clothing and Crew Accessories — Zhik Pty Ltd. for the fabric technology in its Zhik line of performance watersports apparel.
In addition to the Dame Awards category and overall winners, 22 products received special mentions.
The 2nd Annual Boat Builder Awards, sponsored by METS and International Boat Industry magazine, were announced at a gala on Nov. 16 at The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. These awards recognized achievements by manufacturers in a variety of categories.
Lead among them was the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Side-Power, which this year went to Sunseeker International founder and president Robert Braithwaite.
Braithwaite started Sunseeker in 1969 as the dealership Poole Powerboats in Poole on the southern shore of England. The company, which today builds boats from 55 to 155 feet, boasts sales of $300 million and has about 2,200 employees.
Winners in eight award categories, including two new awards for Environmental Initiative and Best Apprenticeship and Training Scheme, were presented.
The remaining 2016 Boat Builders Award winners and sponsors were:
- Best Retail Marketing — Sea Ray for the introduction of its SLX series of sport boats; (Saltwater Stone, sponsor). An honorable mention went to Quicksilver for its custom price configurator;
- International Distributor/Dealer Development — Axopar for its boat sales and international dealership growth (Lumishore, sponsor). An honorable mention went to Galeon;
- Boat Builder & Equipment Manufacturer Collaborative Solution — Azimut Benetti and Rolls-Royce for their development of the AZP C65 lightweight thruster (Ultraflex, sponsor). Honorable mentions went to Lewmar, NV Equipment and Beneteau for their development of a new sunshade design for Beneteau’s Sense sailboat range;
- Innovative On-Board Design Solution — Ferretti Yachts for its submersible garage on the Ferretti 850 (Fusion, sponsor). Honorable mentions went to ski-boat builders MasterCraft for its DockStar handling system and Malibu Boats for its Surf-Band and Surf Gate;
- Innovation on a Production Process — Vripack for its virtual prototyping software (Dometic, sponsor);
- Environmental Initiative — Blue Glass Marine for its development of natural gas fuel options (Scott Bader, sponsor);
- Best Apprenticeship and Training Scheme — Berthon (Marine Resources, sponsor). Honorable mentions went to Sunseeker and Pendennis.
Looking to 2017
Aside from Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, one of the main topics of discussion among show attendees was RAI Amsterdam’s purchase earlier in 2016 of a 50 percent stake in the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, America’s leading marine industry trade event, which the NMMA co-owns.
Dros says METS brings together the strengths of both events and allows for a sharing of ideas and talents. As an example, she pointed to METS’ first Pitch the Press event, held at the METS Trade Theater.
The session featured executives from several exhibiting companies making short product presentations to representatives of the marine press.
“This shows how we can share ideas and strategies instead of competing,” Dros says.
Dros says no major changes are planned for IBEX in 2017. She says the biggest challenge for now will be to fit the growing show into the Tampa (Fla.) Convention Center, where space is becoming limited.
Dros says there are no immediate plans to relocate the show.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.