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Colombian boat show sets high goals for 2014

More than 3,000 people, including domestic and international enthusiasts and manufacturers, are expected to be in Colombia at the 2014 Cartagena Boat Show, the largest Latin American exhibition of the marine industry.

The show will be held March 22-24 in the capital of the department of Bolivar. Organizers expect participation to be 57 percent higher than at the first Cartagena show, which was held last April.

“Growing opportunities in this quickly emerging market include marina design and development, boat and yacht sales — fishing, cruising, center consoles, sailing, towboats — and supporting equipment such as electronics, fishing tackle, water toys, life vests and personal watercraft,” National Marine Manufacturers Association director of export development Julie Balzano told Trade Only Today.

Colombia is the fourth-largest economy in Latin America and has the region’s third-largest population — nearly 46 million — according to national statistics. It is also the only South American country with two seacoasts (Pacific and Caribbean).

The idea is “to transform a Latin American show into a global one where you can find everything you need to practice a water sport, and which better place than Cartagena to make it happen, being the hub of events and nautical-related activities in the country?" Easy Fairs for Latin America director and partner Juan Pablo Hernandez said in a statement.

The company, which is in charge of organizing international shows in 16 countries, chose Cartagena not only because it is a tourist attraction, but also because it has an extensive bay and is in a favorable position away from the hurricane belt.

The NMMA traveled to Cartagena in July to become familiar with the region in a trip that was organized by ProExport Colombia.

Considered a largely middle-income country, Colombia has more than 200,000 people who earn more than $1 million annually, according to an NMMA report on the trip. Yet as of 2011 only 7,350 boats — pleasure and commercial — were registered in the country.

Colombia has one of the oldest democracies in Latin America. It has a boating-oriented culture and a focus on family and socializing. Fishing is popular, as is snorkeling, watersports and sunbathing, according to an NMMA report on the trip.

Colombia is the 26th-most-important export market for recreational boats and engines made in the United States, showing a very slight increase from 2012 through March 2013, Balzano told Trade Only. Overall, the United States is Colombia’s No. 1 trading partner.

More important, the Colombian government seems committed to making nautical tourism a top priority.

“In January of 2012 the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Tourism concluded a comprehensive feasibility study,” Balzano said. “The $400,000 study identified more than 70 potential marina sites and nautical bases along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Colombia. Of those, five marina projects are slated to be developed in the short term.”

Look for an in-depth story on the NMMA and the Colombian market in an upcoming issue of Soundings Trade Only.

— Rich Armstrong and Reagan Haynes

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