Attendance up at MRAA Convention

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Attendance at the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) Annual Convention in Las Vegas has nearly doubled compared to last year, said Phil Keeter, MRAA president, in an interview yesterday.

There are approximately 260 industry professionals at the show, about 200 of which are dealers, compared to about 150 total attendees last year, of which 110 to 115 were dealers, he stated. And MRAA expects that number to grow again next year.

This year was the first time the MRAA Convention was held in conjunction with the Marine One Show, and while Keeter suggested that it didn’t drive attendance as expected, he stated that he believes it will result in attendance growth next year.

This year’s growth was likely the result of an increased marketing effort, he said. However, holding the two events together “exposed a lot more dealers to what is available in terms of knowledge from a national association,” which is likely to result in more dealers at the MRAA event in 2004 he explained.

Despite this growth, however, both members of the Industry Giants panel and dealers in attendance at the event expressed a desire to see more dealers come together for the annual event. MRAA currently has about 3,500 members.

MRAA resurrects features from the past

MRAA resurrected the Mock Spader 20 Group and Jerry Martin’s Shirtsleeve sessions for this year’s event, which Keeter said have been “overwhelmingly accepted.” These features are allowing dealers to share important management and accounting data with their peers.

In addition, the Industry Giants panel on the convention’s opening night was one of the “better sharing sessions we’ve had,” achieving more consensus this year than in the past, he added.

Another way in which MRAA may grow participation in future annual conventions is if more Spader 20 Groups decide to hold their meetings in Las Vegas, Keeter explained.

Mini educational events coming soon?

MRAA may begin exploring offering several mini educational sessions in conjunction with other trade events, Keeter also suggested.

One such example is MRAA’s recent decision to become an affiliate participant in the National Marina & Boatyard Conference & Expo. Though Keeter said it is a little late in the planning to do more than offering some topic areas this year, if that participation goes well, MRAA may expand its participation in future years.

If the concept of mini events works, MRAA may hold its convention every other year, he speculated. Meanwhile, however, Keeter said he is hoping to grow attendance at the annual convention by 50 percent.

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— Liz Walz

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