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IBEX/METS partnership means growth, larger international presence

By Jonathan Sweet

At the annual IBEX Industry Breakfast in October, show organizers announced that the owners and producers of METS would be the new co-owner of the annual IBEX show.

RAI Amsterdam has purchased a 50 percent stake in IBEX from WoodenBoat Publications Inc., publisher of Professional BoatBuilder magazine and will now be an equal partner with the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Earlier this month, the groups finalized the deal, which show organizers say will help grow both events and bring a larger international presence to IBEX.

"There's a lot of synergy around representing the entire marine industry as a global industry," said IBEX Show Director Anne Dunbar. "As a brand we're stronger together. We're the two main events that the trade goes to to see innovation and move the industry forward on the manufacturing level."

IBEX 2017 will be Sept. 19-21 at the Tampa Convention Center.

Both shows will continue to be promoted individually, with no change in branding or name for either event. IBEX will maintain its focus on North America, while METS will keep its emphasis on the global market. In other words, it will be business as usual for attendees and exhibitors, Dunbar said.

"We're going to continue to go our own way and serve the needs of our own constituents," she said.

Both groups will be able to learn from each other, helping to improve both shows. After visiting METS this year, the IBEX team saw several aspects of the show they would like to bring back to IBEX. RAI Amsterdam is a "world-renowned show management company" and everything they do at METS is done at a high level, Dunbar said.

"They're an impressive group of people," Dunbar said. "They're smart, they're sharp, they really know how to run a show. As a partner, you couldn't ask for anyone better."

By the same token, the METS team will benefit from the IBEX team's experience in education. IBEX draws boat builders from all over the world to attend its conference and seminar series. In other cases, such as with their outreach to younger people in the industry, the shows will be able to combine efforts, with the IBEX Marine Millennials group merging with the METS Young Professionals group.

The new partnership will also mean a larger international presence at IBEX. Prior to the recession, IBEX had several international pavilions, but lost those exhibitors as the market suffered (and the show moved to Louisville). However, with long-term plans to keep IBEX in Florida, and the RAI Amsterdam imprimatur, those exhibitors will be returning.

"We’re going to bring back all the international pavilions," Dunbar said. "That just adds a dynamic level to IBEX. The boat builders have a lot of suppliers they like in the United States, but there’s a whole global market out there. If they’re going to be exporting boats overseas, they need to be looking at all the different opportunities for them."

With the success of the show over the last few years, plus the anticipated growth from the international market, IBEX may have to consider relocating after 2018. Lack of space is the show's No. 1 challenge right now, Dunbar said, with the show already almost completely sold out for 2017. Any move would keep the show in Florida, as that has been the most successful location for IBEX.

"We learned our lesson from Louisville," Dunbar said. "We know we can move the show successfully ... but we also know that the show is most successful and the most supported in Florida."

 

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