WASHINGTON – Attendance is up at the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s American Boating Congress, which will come to a close later today – but despite serving more people, organizers have cut costs by more than 40 percent.
The number of total registrants is up by about 50 people to 275 this year, and sponsorship dollars have also increased. Two years ago, ABC attracted only $30,000 in sponsorships; last year, it hit $75,000; and this year, it has jumped to $112,000.
The end result? “We’re as close to break-even as we’ve ever been,” said Monita Fontaine, vice president of NMMA’s government relations department, in an interview today.
In addition, organizers continue to work hard to bring quality speakers to the event. At this event, for example, more senators have been featured on the agenda than in the past.
Legislators need reality check
During opening remarks and a keynote address yesterday, speakers emphasized the importance of the ABC event as a way to ensure boating industry issues are bought to the attention of legislators.
NMMA President Thom Dammrich said the event is “as important as anything you’ve done this year,” in part because the number of legislative issues facing the industry “aren’t diminishing.”
He said over 2,000 pieces of legislation are prepared each year that would have an impact on the boating industry or boaters, “most of which are not intended to be helpful.”
Keynote speaker Senator Chuck Hagel supported Dammrich’s message.
“We need for you to help us understand your issues,” he said. “We need honest, straight-forward conversation.”
Hagel admitted that the government often makes “policy disconnected from reality” something the boating industry can help prevent by communicating with their legislators.
More changes ahead
Fontaine suggested that while there were several people at this year’s ABC who hadn’t attended before, the numbers are likely to be even higher next year. An international boating safety conference, which Fontaine typically attends, took place this year during the same dates as ABC.
Other changes for next year, intended to cut costs and boost revenue, may include removing the use of buses to events and the option to register for one day of the conference for $100, she said.
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