“We should have set our expectations much higher,” said an obviously happy David Ray, executive director of the Marine Industry Association of Central Florida as he wrapped up its Orlando Boat Show last weekend.
“With everything seemingly working against us going into this show,” Ray explained, “this turned out to be the strongest fall show for attendance and sales we have ever had. Attendance was up 21 percent over our best August show, and the dealers who have presumed boat shows are a thing of the past can now see that’s simply not the case,” Ray emphasized.
What happened at the Orlando show—the first fall show out of the gate in a confusing time—should send a positive signal for all those fall shows and exhibitors slated to follow. Consider these factors:
· This show was held indoors at the Orange County Convention Center. All the industry’s other major fall shows are primarily outdoor, in-water events which lowers the perceivable risks at crowded venues. Will the boaters show up? Yes.
· For MIASF, the indoor show presented unique challenges, given that Florida had just become a leading state with cases of the Covid Delta variant. Would the boaters show up? Yes.
· To be prepared, Ray implemented a series of obvious safety protocols that included: widespread signage strongly suggesting wearing masks per CDC guidelines; having a mask supply at the gates; placing dozens of hand sanitizer stations around the show floor; setting up a social distancing seating pattern at the show’s seminar stage as well as in all food service areas.
· In addition, Ray hired a special cleaning contractor, dressed them all in visible yellow jackets with “show staff” imprinted, and had them all cleaning boats and equipment all day long from one end of the show to the other and back again. It was also noted that many show visitors verbally expressed their appreciation directly to the cleaners.
It’s not news that going into the show, dealers were justifiably anxious about inventory issues and sales, and would any buyers even show up?
“They were all smiles as they broke down the show,” said Ray. “Almost all the dealers indicated they sold the boats they brought to the show and wrote orders for future delivery. [And] several dealers reported they have deals on between 30 and 40 boats!”
Jeff Husby, president of Regal Nautique, summarized his experience: “The August 2021 Orlando Boat Show had extremely strong attendance with no signs of buyer slow-down. In past shows customers asked what colors we have available and this year they asked how long they had to wait to get their boat. Our 2022 allotment of all our brands are nearly sold out!”
Clearly the good results may have been unexpected going into the Orlando show, but they confirm that even with continuing concerns about the pandemic that never ends, boaters are committed to their sport, love attending boat shows, and will likely exhibit the same enthusiasm as the industry’s fall show circuit unfolds beginning next month on the east coast and the Great Lakes.