Good weather always plays a role in the success of fall in-water shows like Detroit and Newport, but it wasn’t a factor in the results at IBEX, which recently wrapped up in Louisville, Ky.
The sixth annual Boating & Outdoor Festival near Detroit opened in sunny weather that more than doubled its opening-day attendance for the last two years, according to Michigan Boating Industries Association executive director Nicki Poland. The event finished its four-day run up a solid 19 percent in attendance.
The last of the Great Lakes’ fall in-water shows, the sunny days brought out more than 10,000 boaters, most arriving by land but many by boat. “Boat traffic along the Black River was very busy wanting to see the Festival,” Poland said.
The festival boasted hundreds of power and sailboats from 10 to 60 feet displayed in-water, which was a total space sellout. It also featured a variety of entertainment including live music and daily shows by “Mac and The Big Cheese,” often dubbed the Abbott and Costello of comedy cooking, among other features.
The 45th annual Newport International Boat Show also ran last weekend and the perfect four days of sun there turned out great crowds.
Newport also boasted special attractions, led by the 200-foot SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, the country’s newest tall ship and one of only 75 tall ships in the world designated by Sail Training International as Class A. Other highlights included the Confident Captain’s “At the Helm” hands-on boat handling training. Newport was voted “Favorite Boat Show to Attend" in a recent Trade Only Today poll.
While all fall consumer shows so far have enjoyed increased attendance, such was not the case for the International BoatBuilders' Exhibition & Conference, which is the industry’s big trade event. Attendance declined from last year, but it’s hard to understand why.
Having attended IBEX in both Louisville, Ky., and Tampa, Fla., I can say without reservation that IBEX is a superbly-produced event. It’s not just a show with 545 exhibitors presenting the newest products and technologies. It’s also a well-planned educational conference in which show director Anne Dunbar and her team incorporate special events, networking receptions and, especially, dozens of in-depth technical seminars and workshops.
That’s why I have urged dealers to attend IBEX. Perhaps its name is deceiving because it’s clearly not just for boatbuilders. Indeed, dealers, and particularly dealership service personnel, can: (1) stay ahead of the competition by learning the latest repair and service processes; (2) get an advanced look at what’s going to be in the boats from their respective builders going forward; (3) and learn about new products that can be both profitable and effective in serving customers.
While more than 4,700 qualified attendees from 42 countries were in Louisville for IBEX last week, attendance didn’t measure up to the success IBEX had last year when it as held in Tampa. Yet Louisville is geographically located to make it easy for attendees to come from virtually all areas of the country.
Is it that the city of Louisville isn’t a luring destination for attendees? It’s known that location does play a role in drawing attendees to trade shows in general. Does Florida naturally have more drawing power?
IBEX is scheduled to return to Tampa Oct. 4-6, 2016. After that, where IBEX in 2017 goes is something Dunbar and staff will be seriously examining.
But it really shouldn’t make any difference. That’s because no matter where it’s located, it is the industry’s largest technical trade event. And with the rapid pace of today’s changes in technology, materials, systems and products, IBEX anywhere is an event dealers who want to be on top should be attending.