Discover Boating Dock is big success at Tampa Show

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There I was . . . walking the docks of the in-water portion of the Tampa Boat Show with thunder rumbling and rain coming down. Amazingly, I wasn’t alone. There were plenty of others doing the same thing and I thought to myself: “These Florida boaters are nut-jobs, just like me!”

Actually, it painted a good picture of the just completed show. Serious buyers were not deterred by thunder storms, albeit the storms on Sunday did keep some attendees home resulting a drop at the gate of 20 percent. Still, show manager Larry Berryman reported that the event enjoyed two and half excellent days before the storms moved in.

"We had a fantastic show,” reported Thunder Marine’s Steve Wacker (Hydra-Sports, NauticStar). “The attendees we spoke with had great attitudes and were really enthusiastic about the show. We signed 14 deals onsite and have several new leads to follow up on."

The National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Cathy Rick-Joule, vice president of southern shows, said several dealers reported sales of 10 or more units. On Saturday, Marine Max closed the largest boat in this year’s show, a Hatteras 72 Motor Yacht. “Overall, the show was very upbeat, boats were sold and it points to more success for our industry’s fall shows still ahead,” she predicted.

One of the most impressive additions I found at this year’s show was the new “Discover Boating Dock.” According to Berryman, all the weekend sessions were completely booked, resulting in several hundred attendees taking part in new interactive on-water experiences.

“Visitors signed up at our main Discover Boating Center inside the convention center and met at the dock for their respective sessions,” explained Berryman.

A total of 44 experience sessions were scheduled in five separate subjects. These included: The Ski Boat Experience (a 30-minute ski boat adventure from Mastercraft); The Close Quarter Boat Handling Experience (docking and maneuvering in outboard boats by Outcast Watersports & the RPBA - Recreational Power Boating Association); The Introduction to Sailing Experience (a one and a half-hour sail aboard Hunter sailboats); The Advanced Docking Experience (Precision maneuvering/docking with a 40’cruiser by Sailing Florida and the RPBA); and The Joystick Docking Experience (a 30-minute IPS Joystick demo & training session aboard a Tiara 36 Open by Volvo Penta and Galati Yachts Sales).

For those in the industry who have advocated that shows should find ways to increase a visitor’s hands-on involvement, your ship clearly came in at Tampa! Wherever possible, other show managers now have a good model to follow. But whether or not any given show can reproduce Tampa’s Discover Boating Dock, boat shows continue to demonstrate their power to draw qualified prospects regardless of attendance numbers or economic climate.

Perhaps Tampa exhibitor Raymond Grace, Lee Fisher Tackle, best described the power of shows when he said: “I was really impressed with the amount of qualified buyers.”

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