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Colombia show reports attendance boost

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The March 22-24 Cartagena International Boat Show grew exponentially in its second year, with a 165 percent rise in attendance from 1,300 in its inaugural year to 3,455 this year.

There were 126 percent more exhibitors this year than last — 93, compared with 41 —and more than twice the boats, with 27 on display this year.

Show organizer Juan Pablo Hernandez said at the March 22 opening that there were more than twice as many exhibitors this year than the previous year, including 16 first-time exhibitors at the new U.S. pavilion organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“I can tell you that our exhibitors within the U.S. pavilion were very satisfied with the quality of attendee,” Julie Balzano, who heads the export program for the NMMA, told Trade Only Today.

With the country’s culture and coastlines on the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans that have several major ports, the country is poised to develop the pleasure boating industry, said Santiago Rojas, Colombia’s minister of tourism, industry and commerce.

“In Colombia now we see tourism as one of the main sources of employment,” Rojas said at the show. “In Colombia, of course, we have two seas on our borders. Nautical tourism and all of the industry around it is very important. We are out of the hurricane zone. In Cartagena we decided to work with the chamber of commerce to develop a cluster of nautical industry. That means working very closely with businesses, boatbuilders and shipyards to help create more services around the industry.”

The country is accepting marina proposals for at least one of the government-sponsored projects it has in the works.

“Increasing nautical trade and tourism is a top focus for Colombia,” Maria Claudia Lacouture, president of Proexport Colombia, told Trade Only in an email. “With 13 free trade agreements and access to two oceans, Colombia provides an ideal location and environment for maritime business. The government has made investments in all of our ports to increase the number of berths and make them more accessible to trade and cruise vessels. Our strategy includes making sure foreign companies are aware of the benefits of creating and transporting products from Colombia and that cruise ships consider Cartagena as an excellent destination in between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.”

Internally the country is looking to partner with marine schools to provide training for Colombians, Andres Cerda Nieto of the Cartagena Chamber of Commerce said during a March 21 presentation. A nautical education program in conjunction with Broward College in Miami has been discussed to help residents become trained and skilled in the boating industry, Nieto said.

The third Cartagena International Boat Show will take place March 21-23, 2015, and already has the participation of 50 companies, with 20 coming from the United States, according to a statement.

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