The Tampa Boat Show knocked it out of the park last weekend. But, most importantly from an industry perspective, it's a solid indicator that the fall shows slated for the next two months will see bigger crowds and more sales.
Specifically, this show — produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association — enjoyed an increase in every category from exhibit space to attendance.
According to show manager Kevin Murphy, floor space in the Tampa Convention Center was a total sellout requiring the increased placement of displays on the mezzanine. In addition, because the convention facility is on the water, the in-water segment boasted a record 142 boats up to 75 feet, including a group of sailboats for the first time in many years.
“From the VIP Night on Thursday to the close Sunday, the crowds really showed up,” said Darren Plymale, general manager of Galati Yachts Sales (Viking, Tiara, Prestige, Cruisers, Princess, Maritimo, Grand Banks). He was referring to the 25 percent attendance increase that delivered 20,836 show goers vs. 16,600 last year.
“We specifically targeted five major sales for the weekend,” Plymale said. “We have three closed now and I’m confident we’ll exceed the five because we’re moving the unsold boats to our newest location at Tierra Verde Resort & Marina for a big follow-up weekend event. Overall, this has been an exciting year for us and we see it continuing.”
"Great traffic," said Josh Person, sales manager for Central Marine (Cobia, World Cat, Skeeter, Parker, Release, Glacier Bay). “It was all we could handle, especially Saturday. I couldn't get out of the exhibit. We've closed on several boats and even picked up single engine sales and major repowers, too. Overall, I believe we've had an amazing bounce-back from the recession and this show is an example."
Equally enthusiastic was Nancy Frainetti of The Electric Marina (Torqueedo Electric Power). "The crowds have been tremendous this year which is very good for me because I've been able to enlighten so many people about electric power. We've had great reception to the introduction of the new Torqueedo 20. And, under our Electric Yachts banner, we're now going to be replacing an old diesel auxiliary with our clean, quiet electric power. It’s the kind of refit business we hope to do more of in the future.”
Braden Thuber, harbormaster at Loggerhead Club & Marina in St. Petersburg, noted: “There is no better way than being here to get our marina story in front of thousands of boaters in just three days. The quality of the attendees this year is the best yet. We will get new customers from this show.”
The Tampa show is also a genuine turnaround story. Nearly abandoned in the aftermath of the Great Recession, NMMA president Thom Dammrich challenged Larry Berryman to go rescue the event from the cutting block or let it die. Berryman chose rescue and reengineered the event back into the win column.
Berryman is now assistant show manager and director of sales for the Miami International Boat Show while Kevin Murphy, in his first year heading Tampa, has taken the show to new levels, including: a 60 percent increase in RSVPs for the VIP Preview Night; a record 142 boats in-water including the return of sailboats; 261 boats on the convention center floor; overflowing exhibits on the mezzanine and outside on River Walk adjacent to the docks.
“This year, Kevin has done a great job making this show the premiere event in Tampa Bay,” Plymale said. Knowing boat shows as I do, and having just spent three days in the Discover Boating Center at the Tampa show, I second Plymale’s assessment.
It’s going to be an exciting ride for the fall show season.