Together Again

The industry is primed as IBEX returns to an in-person format. Organizers expect the Tampa, Fla., event to sell out
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Anne Dunbar

Anne Dunbar

Anne Dunbar, show director for the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference, says that seeing exhibitors and attendees is one of the things she is most looking forward to as the event returns to in-person
status Sept. 28-30.

“There’s more people than ever on boats, and with so many new boaters coming into the market, the onus is on us as an industry to keep evolving,” Dunbar says.

The 30th edition of IBEX will be at the Tampa Convention Center and waterfront in Florida. A pre-conference session called Marina 101 will be held Sept. 26, and many companies are hosting training and certification sessions Sept. 27. The industry breakfast that traditionally kicks off the show is moving to the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street.

Vaccination Motivation

Dunbar says the IBEX board of directors followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to bring the show back to in-person. When President Biden announced his intention to have the majority of Americans vaccinated for Covid-19 by July Fourth, the board determined that holding IBEX 90 days later would be safe.

“The support we received as soon as we announced that we were having a show was amazing,” Dunbar says. As of late July, 582 exhibitors had registered, including 36 international companies, and 80 of those were new attendees. Only a handful of booths remained available as of early August, and Dunbar expected the remaining space to sell out. The docks were also sold out with a waiting list, so show management was planning to add docks at the Marriott.

“I think the industry knows we 
need this show,” says director Anne Dunbar. “It’s responsible for advancing boating and for better boats.”  

“I think the industry knows we need this show,” says director Anne Dunbar. “It’s responsible for advancing boating and for better boats.”  

Dunbar says sponsorships for events were selling “aggressively,” and every evening would have a sponsored event at the outdoor pavilion. For example, opening night is sponsored by Wet Sounds, which will be showcasing its stereo and entertainment products. “We are way beyond what we thought we’d be doing at this time,” Dunbar says.

One of the exhibitors generating serious buzz is Vision Marine Technologies, the company building the 180-hp E-Motion electric outboard. The Canadian corporation is “what IBEX is all about,” Dunbar says. Vision Marine is working with high-performance catamaran manufacturer Hellkat Powerboats to develop the first electrically powered boat to run 100 mph. World champion powerboat racer Shaun Torrente is working with Vision Marine on the attempt to hit the century mark.

Year-Round Participation

During the pandemic, the Tampa Convention Center updated its facility, including for cleanliness, according to Dunbar, who adds that the show will follow guidelines from the CDC, State of Florida, City of Tampa and the convention center itself. Having the show in-person matters, she says, because 2020 proved that “virtual does not replace in-person.”

With a waiting list for dock space,
organizers were planning to 
add docks at the Marriott .

With a waiting list for dock space, organizers were planning to add docks at the Marriott .

The pandemic also proved that “the industry needs IBEX more than just the three days,” she says. Show management developed IBEX 365 as a year-round resource for the recreational boating industry. “Not all products can be launched at IBEX, and now we’re giving them a platform to our community,” Dunbar says. “There are thousands of people out there who want to be able to connect and be part of IBEX.”

Clicking the IBEX 365 tab on the show website reveals links to seminars, articles, new products and Innovation Award winners. “It has evolved to become a critical platform for the industry, from education to what’s happening on the show floor,” Dunbar says. Exhibitors can post articles to IBEX 365 about new products and technology launches, company news and timely education sessions, including photos, videos, brochures, social media links and more. The articles are categorized by industry sector and article type.

Big crowds are expected as the show returns to Tampa with 
an in-person format. 

Big crowds are expected as the show returns to Tampa with an in-person format. 

Focus on Education

One of the biggest draws of IBEX is the seminar series. Patty Lawrence joined the team as education director, and Dunbar says she is elevating the quality of the content and the presenters. The education program focuses on emerging topics and technical information. Preconference session topics include American Boat and Yacht Council certification and electronics installer training, stability standards for boats longer than 20 feet, and supply-chain logistics.

“The IBEX Education Conference accomplishes three things,” Lawrence says. “First, the conference brings industry innovators together in one place. Boatbuilders, engineers and industry leaders gather to introduce new trends, innovative materials and explain updated standards. Second, as cutting-edge technology transitions to everyday applications, we educate technicians on what to expect. A few years ago, we introduced foiling as an emerging topic; this year, foiling will be discussed in terms of practical applications for modern powerboats. Third, the Education Conference brings in experts to teach best practices on a variety of topics, including carbon emission reduction, workforce development and supply-chain improvement.”

Forty seminars are being offered in eight tracks covering a range of topics. 

Forty seminars are being offered in eight tracks covering a range of topics. 

Forty seminars are being offered in eight tracks: construction methods and materials; design and engineering; emerging topics; management policy; marina and boatyard operations; marine electrical systems; marine on-board systems; and survey and repair. Specific seminars will include decarbonization and safety enhancements in the design and manufacturing process, lithium battery guidelines for the future, and corporate sustainability and responsibility. Throughout the show, the third floor exhibit hall will host Tech Talk workshops with one-hour sessions covering topics such as hydrofoils for pontoon boats and solutions to shore power woes.

“I think the industry knows we need this show,” Dunbar says. “It’s responsible for advancing boating and for better boats.” 

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.

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