MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – With seven years of sailboat unit sales declines behind it, you might think the sailing industry – and its trade association, Sail America – would be struggling to keep their chins up.
But that’s not necessarily so, according to Jonathan Banks, executive director for Sail America. For one, as in the powerboat sector, the trend toward larger and better equipped boats has translated into an increase in dollar sales. Secondly, as fuel prices have increased and a greater focus on environmental responsibility and stewardship has emerged, the tide seems to be moving in sailing’s favor. And thirdly, the association is about to launch a new annual conference next week, the response to which is already exceeding its expectations.
“There’s always a danger, especially in challenging times, that people will hunker down and focus on the short term, failing to consider the big picture,” commented Banks in an interview this morning. “By bringing the industry together to share ideas, challenges, issues and opportunities, it will ultimately help.”
Conference exceeding expectations
The inaugural annual “Growth Through Innovation” Sailing Industry Conference presented by GE Capital Solutions and Sail America will take place June 11-12 in Newport, R.I., at the International Yacht Restoration School.
“Our expectations have been met, if not exceeded, by the level of interest,” Banks said.
Not only does the event boast 15 sponsors, it had to turn away several more in the interest of not diluting the opportunity for those it has already signed on, he explained.
Organizers expect close to 150 participants representing 100 to 110 companies to attend. That’s about 25 percent of Sail America’s total membership, according to Banks, who explained the show has a regional bias.
“Our goal is to make this an annual conference and move it around the country,” he added. Future locations might be on the West Coast, in Florida, in the Mid-Atlantic and in the Great Lakes region. For more information on the conference, visit www.sailamerica.com.
New partnerships ahead
The conference is one initiative that helps fulfill one in a long list of goals Sail America has established for itself – specifically its goal to create more value for its members.
Another of the association’s goals is to achieve financial stability. Sail America has been losing money for the past few years, and a contributing factor to these financial challenges has been its role as a boat show producer, Banks said.
With that said, “providing boat shows focused primarily on sailing is a critical part of our mission,” he explained, something that won’t change. Rather than getting out of boat show production, the association is looking to become more efficient in this segment of its operation, looking for areas where it makes sense to partner with or support other show producers to create a greater sailing presence at boating events across the nation.
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