Watch out, METS! Here comes IBEX

With up to 50-percent more exhibit space this year, there’s no doubt that the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference is expanding. But will it grow to become the largest marine trade show in the world?
That’s what National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich is shooting for. With 60 percent of the world’s recreational marine business based in the United States, there’s no reason why the largest show shouldn’t be located here as well, he says.
Of course, that won’t happen this year. Though there are 125,000 additional square feet available to exhibitors, making for a potential show floor of 375,000 square feet, organizers weren’t sure as we went to press whether they will fill up the newly available space in the first year.
At the very least, the show will be 30- to 40-percent bigger this year through the addition of about 100 new exhibitors, say organizers. This would make for a grand total of about 800 exhibitors.
Carl Cramer of Professional BoatBuilder magazine, who is co-director of the show, explains that about 20 percent of former exhibitors will be expanding the size of their booths. The rest of the newly added space is available to first-time exhibitors.
As far as attendance is concerned, Cramer says he’ll be disappointed if IBEX doesn’t exceed 5,000 visitors.
Meanwhile, the organizers of METS Amsterdam — which currently holds the title of largest marine trade show — say they expect “at least 900 exhibitors” at this year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at the Amsterdam RAI. METS typically attracts between 12,000 and 16,000 attendees.
Impact of co-ownership
The 2004 IBEX, set to take place Oct. 25-27 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, is only the second event in the show’s 14-year history to be produced by founder Professional BoatBuilder magazine under co-ownership with NMMA.
The two show organizers announced their plans to merge the former IBEX, owned by PBB, with NMMA’s BoatBuilding trade show in May 2003, and they now co-direct the event, which has retained the IBEX brand.
The first show managed by both parties took place last October. At the event, attendance took a slight hit and exhibitor numbers were flat, compared to the IBEX produced by Professional BoatBuilder earlier in the year.
Organizers attributed the attendance figures to the fact that two boatbuilding trade shows were held in one year. Many companies had only budgeted for one show and thus weren’t able to travel to the October IBEX.
With 2004 as the first year in which the merged show stands alone, organizers expect the number of exhibitors and attendees to increase, with the number of participants from outside the U.S. experiencing particular growth.
“Now that there’s one show, there is more interest from the Europeans,” Dammrich explains.
As a result, the show will feature an expanded international pavilion with 50 exhibitors from more than a dozen countries.
Organizers are also adding a new composites pavilion in response to suggestions from participants and “continued growth of and interest in composite boat building,” The new pavilion will take up more than 20,000 square feet and house 750 exhibitors. This will include the 19 companies that will display and demonstrate new technologies in the Outdoor Demo Area.
In looking beyond the 2004 show, there is another source of potential growth. The industry currently is working to obtain a consensus on a promotional campaign, which could boost participation in IBEX, Dammrich suggests.
“There are a lot of people in the boating demographic who haven’t experienced boating,” he comments, indicating the potential he sees for market growth.
If IBEX were to outgrow its new, larger footprint, a fourth exhibit hall could possibly be made available, say organizers.
Timing to change in 2005
The timing of the new IBEX was a controversial issue last year. The show took place at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Oct. 27-29, ending the day before the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show began.
For the small minority who exhibited at both shows, the timing of IBEX was problematic.
They will again face the challenge of participating in both IBEX and Fort Lauderdale, one after the other, this year.
In 2005, IBEX is scheduled to take place the week before Fort Lauderdale starts. This will undoubtedly provide some relief for those who plan to exhibit at both. Whether it will make for a stronger show remains to be seen. Organizers expressed some concern that boat building CEOs would be unlikely to travel twice in two weeks and therefore would choose between IBEX and the Fort Lauderdale show. — Liz Walz

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