Boat show attendance, sales show industry growth

With the winter boat show season well underway and the industry’s eyes set toward spring, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported that the industry is continuing to grow.

In a recent release, the NMMA said that unit sales of new powerboats are expected to be up 6 percent in 2017, with an estimated 260,000 new powerboats sold last year.

After the conclusion of multiple boat shows around the country, numbers in sales – not just in powerboats, but all boat classes – and attendance are reaching record highs at various locations, and both sales and attendance in others.

Chicago’s Progressive Insurance Boat, RV & Sail Show spanned five days, with a total attendance of 48,644, a 4 percent increase from 2017. More than 20,000 of those showed up on one day of the show, Saturday.

North America’s largest indoor boat show, the Toronto International Boat Show tallied a total attendance of 77,493.

The Progressive Insurance Minneapolis Boat show closed its four-day run with 5.5 percent decrease in attendance compared to 2017. However, according to the NMMA, “dealers reported solid sales and quality leads, despite the show’s slight drop in attendance.”

Also during the Minneapolis show, the first-ever Minneapolis Innovation Awards took place during the opening evening of the show. The Innovation Awards recognized winners in three product categories: Aluminum Fishing Boats (Impact XS, Lund Boats), Fiberglass Fishing Boats (WX2060, Skeeter Boats), and Pontoon Boats (L-Class, Barletta Boats).

Boat shows in Atlanta, Nashville, and Kansas all reported increases in attendance over 2017 at 40 percent, 18 percent, and 8 percent respectively.

North America’s largest indoor boat show, the Toronto International Boat Show, tallied a total attendance of 77,493, a 1 percent increase over the highest attended show in the past five years in 2017.

“Exhibitors had high expectations coming into this year’s show following what was one of our strongest for attendance growth in 2017 (10 percent higher than 2016) matched by robust sales,” said Cynthia Hare, show manager for the Toronto Boat Show. 

On top of high attendance numbers for the 2018 show, dealers are also reporting a high number of sales.

“We are very pleased with the success we’ve had at the Toronto Show and excited to see our sales getting back to record numbers,” said Dave Mayhew of The Boat Warehouse. “The quality of traffic was stronger than in recent years, resulting in a very positive outlook for the rest of 2018.”

Although Canadian showgoers battled unfavorable weather conditions, attendance remained steady at the 56th annual Vancouver International Boat Show, which concluded with a total attendance of 28,739, compared to last year’s attendance of 30,435.

The weather dashed what seemed to be another record-setting year for attendance, as advance and online E-ticket sales for the 2018 show were the highest recorded in show history, up 12 percent from 2017. However, the redemption rate reflected that over 1,100 E-tickets were not redeemed onsite.

“Despite the extreme weather warnings for heavy rain and high winds over the weekend, which caused considerable challenges for guests to attend, all indications over the five days suggest that a strong year lies ahead for the recreational marine industry in B.C.,” said Eric Nicholl, show manager of the Vancouver International Boat Show. “The addition of The Pavilion to our indoor venue at B.C. Place, and expanded marina display at Granville Island, made this year’s show the biggest on record. With the trends we are seeing, it appears that the fast-approaching boating season will be a strong one.”

Regardless of the slight fall in attendance and less than ideal conditions, NMMA reported that serious buyers and strong sales were reported by the majority of the exhibitors.

“The first four days of the boat show were exceptional, with lots of local buyers looking for the latest products,” said Salim Ladha, senior vice president and partner at Steveston Marine & Hardware. “The B.C. market is looking very strong for marine products going into 2018.”

The Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show also saw a slight decrease in attendance from last year – down 2 percent from last year – however, the show still maintained a 4 percent increase for its three-year average.

“This was the best show we have had in years,” said Lou Cecchini, president of Off Shore Marine, Inc. in Branchville, N.J. “Attendance was average during the week, but very busy on the weekend with Saturday looking like boat shows of years ago.”

Various shows – from boat shows to sportshows, and more – will continue to take place year-round across the globe, however the majority of the U.S. show season will wrap up at the end of March. A full show calendar can be found at 


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