Niels Klarenbeek is no stranger to adversity and unique challenges. It was in April 2020 — just as Covid-19 was starting to spiral its way around the globe — that he was appointed director of Metstrade, the largest business-to-business recreational marine trade show on Earth. Only four months later, he and show organizers made the gut-wrenching decision to cancel the 2020 show.
The next installment of Metstrade kicked off in November 2021 as a hybrid virtual/in-person event with a slightly reduced footprint and strict Covid-19 protocols. The show was surprisingly able to still host more than 1,100 exhibitors despite the extraordinary conditions.
This year, things are different. The show, being held in-person Nov. 15-17 at the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam, is shaping up to be back at prepandemic levels. Organizers are expecting more than 1,400 exhibitors and 96 percent of previous Metstrade attendees to return this year. Organizers also say the show floor will be larger than ever and will include the return of the SuperYacht Pavilion, which will be situated in Halls 9-11, including a dedicated Holland Pavilion.
Hall 12 will host the Construction Material Pavilion, which will showcase equipment for large production yachts and include an Italian Pavilion. By doing this, it becomes the go-to hall to showcase the most advanced technologies for innovative builders, naval architects and interior designers. Electric propulsion technologies will be displayed in the Elicium Ballroom as part of the E-LAB Electric & Hybrid Showcase. Entries for the DAME Awards will also be on display here. Special-interest products will be displayed in the Marine and Yard Pavilion in Hall 5 and the Construction Material Pavilion in Hall 12.
Soundings Trade Only connected with Klarenbeek in early August for an update on what to expect at this year’s show, the challenges facing the recreational marine industry, and what he is most excited about in this year’s programming.
In April, you told Soundings Trade Only about providing more space in the halls where exhibitors and visitors can network. How are those plans rolling out?
The 2022 Metstrade show will be much more spacious overall. No less than 10 halls at the RAI Convention Center will be filled with the latest marine equipment. So with this significant expansion, we will have additional space for seating and networking areas. The leisure marine industry is eager to meet in-person and do business. And we are thrilled to facilitate them.
You also mentioned the SuperYacht Pavilion returning this year. How would you describe interest from exhibitors so far?
Our dedicated area for superyacht equipment, the SuperYacht Pavilion, is extremely thriving and completely sold out. Halls 9, 10 and 11 will be filled with the latest superyacht equipment, including national pavilions from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. While we were able to create more exhibition space this year, nevertheless we are working with a waiting list.
How would you gauge interest in the improved Construction Material Pavilion?
The Construction Material Pavilion has moved to a prominent location in Hall 12, close to the Superyacht Pavilion. It has been growing over the years because there is an ongoing demand for lighter, stronger and more sustainable composite materials.
Another important development in the industry is 3D printing, which is increasingly making its way into boatbuilding applications. Visitors can also find all of that in the Construction Material Pavilion.
The Italian Pavilion is also located in Hall 12, including the Casa Italia networking lounge. The exhibit has a specific focus on equipment for large production yachts. By doing this, it becomes the go-to hall to showcase the most advanced technologies for innovative yacht builders, naval architects and interior designers.
What about the Marina and Yard Pavilion?
The Marina and Yard Pavilion has moved to Hall 5, close to the national pavilions of the United States, France and Poland. The Marina and Yard Pavilion is fully geared to satisfy the needs of marina developers, operators, managers and harbormasters. They will be able to find a full range of marina building and infrastructure products, such as pontoons, docking systems, boat lifts, etc.
The latest trend is electrification, so the growing demand for electric boating requires adequate charging infrastructure at marinas. This year’s Marina and Yard Pavilion will also showcase supercharging networks, which partner with waterside destinations to support electric-boat owners.
Which improvements in the show layout and program are you most looking forward to?
Without a doubt, the Elicium Ballroom. This will be a bustling epicenter of innovation, inspiration and education. Visitors will find the prestigious DAME Awards, the E-LAB Electric & Hybrid Showcase, the Boat Builder Awards display and the Metstrade Theatre. During the three days of the show, we will run an exciting series of keynotes and panel discussions around important topics such as sustainability, electric boating and ocean safety.
Furthermore, we have numerous improvements to the show floor. We will create an all-new corridor between halls 9 and 11 that will optimize the traffic flow in the SuperYacht Pavilion. Hall 9 will feature a Holland Pavilion, with a significant Dutch cluster surrounding the SuperYacht Pavilion Bar, sponsored by the Holland Yachting Group.
Can you tell us about the E-LAB Electric & Hybrid Showcase displays in the Elicium Ballroom? What sort of alternative propulsion manufacturers will be there?
The growing demand for hybrid and electric engines is gaining significance in the marine market. At this year’s show we will tap into this trend by offering our exhibitors a dedicated area for electric and hybrid innovation. Electric outboards, electric thrusters, battery packs, charging systems and more will be on display.
Along that vein, would you say you are seeing a large influx of new exhibitors showcasing electric propulsion technologies and products?
Yes, the ongoing demand for sustainability has gained additional momentum by increasing gas prices. Among new first-time exhibitors, we have seen numerous players in the electric boating segment.
What can you tell us about the education programs?
We produce an exciting educational program together with show and media partners. These sessions will take place in the Metstrade Theatre in the Elicium Ballroom. The full lineup will be announced soon on our website and social media channels.
How are numbers looking for exhibitors and visitors compared with prepandemic levels?
We anticipate 1,400 exhibiting companies, and that is quite close to our 2019 show. Visitor registration has just opened.
Supply-chain issues have affected some manufacturers’ ability to produce new products and bring them to market. What are you hearing from them in this regard?
We are aware that this is still a hot issue in the industry. Boatbuilders are still highly challenged by supply-chain issues. They’re eager to get to Metstrade to find additional materials sources and overcome these obstacles.
A lot of Ukrainian workers at boatbuilding plants in Europe (Poland, especially) have left to go home and either defend their country or be with and protect their families. Are you seeing any pullback from exhibitors because of the conflict?
No, Metstrade will have a strong Polish Pavilion in Hall 5.
What else are you hearing from exhibitors and trade organizations about the show this year?
There is a lot of excitement in the industry that there is going to be a strong and large Metstrade. We’ll have 27 country pavilions in the show, and people are looking forward to a full, in-person event.
What is most challenging about being director of the world’s largest business-to-business recreational marine trade exhibition?
As in any industry, global issues that are impacting the world around us also have an impact on us. As organizer of the world’s largest business-to-business recreational marine trade exhibition, we are dealing with stakeholders, clients and suppliers from all corners of the globe and can thus easily be affected by specific situations, as with any international organization.
What is most rewarding?
After so many months of hard work behind the scenes, it’s undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things to see an exhibition coming together. The smiling faces of exhibitors and visitors alike, the numerous handshakes and business deals that we witness on the show floor, the inspiring content sessions that are bringing new insights to its participants — that is what we’re doing it for.
If someone in the marine industry is on the fence about attending Metstrade, what would you tell them?
It is just a must-attend event for anyone working in the leisure marine industry. Thousands of industry professionals from over the globe will gather in Amsterdam. Anyone who’s seriously working in the recreational marine trade should consider a visit. Being here for just three days will save you months of meetings and help you to quickly get to speak to whoever you want.
This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.