Hope on the horizon for the NY boat show

While the New York National Boat Show has yet to obtain a new, better date range, both organizers and exhibitors have more reasons to be optimistic about the show’s future this year than last.
For one, while the show was slammed with a 26-percent decline in attendance in 2003, it rebounded significantly this year, despite worse dates and fewer show days. The 2003 show was nine days long and took place Saturday, Dec. 28 through Sunday, Jan. 5. This year’s event began on Saturday, Dec. 27, a day closer to the Christmas holiday, and finished up on Sunday, Jan. 4. The show was closed on New Year’s Eve.
Some exhibitors last year said they expected attendance to further decline in 2004 unless the dates were changed, with four or five boating companies dropping out of the show altogether, says show director Michael Duffy. However, though the show didn’t sell out this year, organizers added a freshwater fishing section, attracting new exhibitors such as Stratos, Tracker and Godfrey Marine.
And, to the surprise of several exhibitors, attendance exceeded expectations, growing 14 percent over the previous year.
Bigger, better marketing
The growth in attendance, according to Duffy, can be attributed in part to bigger and better marketing. Last year was the first year the dates of the 94-year-old show straddled the New Year holiday, and in the show’s second year with the new time frame, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) did a better job of getting the word out to consumers.
Not only did NMMA spend more money on marketing this year’s show, it also hired a new media buying agency in 2003 that helped the show producer reallocate its dollars toward targeting its core demographic.
This translated into more TV and radio advertising. Meanwhile, newspapers were used for weekly messages, he explained.
In addition, it just so happens that 2005 is a leap year, and thus the N.Y. show is scheduled to take place Jan.1-9, which are considered better dates than either of the past two years. Organizers therefore expect attendance to increase again in 2005.
The 2006 show is another story, however. It is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 31 through Jan. 8.
Lobbying the governor’s office
NMMA continues to lobby for better dates, with a goal of getting them changed in time for 2006. However, one of the challenges has been gathering sales information from dealers, says Duffy. Dealers have resisted giving their numbers up, he said.
“We’re still continuing our efforts, collecting data from dealers and manufacturers, including sales revenue generated from the show, the number of employees and sales tax paid, [to show] how they contribute to the economy of New York state,” he explains. “In my opinion, that’s how to convince them.”
The “them” he refers to is changing as well. NMMA met with the Javits marketing committee in mid-January and let them know “we were going up the ladder with the pursuit of a date change,” says Duffy.
While NMMA has attempted to get the attention of the governor’s office in the past, Duffy states that the show’s lobbyist is now bringing the issue to the governor’s attention, “putting the word in his ear” at every Republican event.
Expansion brings hope for the future
At the mid-January meeting, the marketing committee also asked NMMA for its assistance in promoting Javits’ expansion, scheduled to be completed in 2009.
“I told them I’ll be their poster boy for expansion,” says Duffy.
Though NMMA hopes to have the date issue resolved before 2009, Javits executives have told show producers that once the expansion is complete, the N.Y. show dates “will no longer be an issue,” he states.
Meanwhile, the NMMA show committee discussed the future of the N.Y. show during a meeting at the Miami International Boat Show, Duffy says. Although details weren’t available at press time, he expected the N.Y. show, which he says continues to be profitable for both NMMA and exhibitors, to get at least the same level of support from the association going forward.
“If anything, we would promote the dates more and earlier [in preparation for the 2005 show],” he adds. — Liz Walz

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