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Toronto show reports attendance boost

The 55th annual Toronto International Boat Show ended Sunday amid positive feedback from exhibitors.

Many of the more than 550 manufacturers and dealers across the sold-out Direct Energy Centre Exhibition Place reported that the 10-day show exceeded their expectations, establishing the groundwork for what is shaping up to be a strong year for the boating industry in Canada.

Overall attendance was 81,010, up 6 percent from 2012 and more than 9 percent above the average attendance of the last three years.

“We continue to take a very focused approach with our marketing and features strategies, which is contributing to attendance growth and attracting motivated consumers,” show manager Cynthia Hare said in a statement. “We’re delighted that our exhibitors are reporting great sales across the board.”

Canada’s largest boat show once again featured special attractions such as the world’s largest indoor lake for boaters, which this year showcased professional wakeboarding superstars at the inaugural Winter Wake Fest. Another hit with attendees was the popular Canadian Yachting Island Village under the palms in SailFest that featured the authentic sounds and flavors of the Caribbean amid the sail-focused area of the show.

“We’ve really turned the corner — this year’s show was much better than any in the past three years or more,” Wim Zegers, president of Anchor Yachts, a Beneteau dealer, said in a statement. “We love the setup of the SailFest upper deck, and I believe the pent-up consumer demand really produced excellent results this year.”

Tyler Bisby, district sales manager of Princecraft, said overall sales were up 10 percent at this year’s show.

“We started strong, with sales up 49 percent on the opening Friday night, and it just continued all week,” Radio World general manager Jack Summers said in a statement. “This is among the four best shows we’ve ever had because consumers were very value-conscious and we were able to deliver across all our product lines.”

The positive mood of this year’s Toronto show was in keeping with annual sales statistics introduced during the week that showed Canadian new boat and engine sales up 13 percent as of September. The leading boat trend in Canada is aluminum pontoon boats, experiencing a 23 percent increase in sales.

The 10-day show also saw increased attendance at Special Preview Night on Jan. 11. A new two-tier ticketing structure resulted in a much larger turnout in support of Children’s Charities. Since 2000, more than $600,000 has been raised for initiatives that are close to the hearts of the boating community.

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