Although a blizzard impacted consumer traffic at this year's Ottawa Boat and Sportsmen's Show held in late February, overall attendance was close to last year's event. Show organizers report 23,098 visitors made it to the event, down approximately three percent from 2011.
"Attendance would have been up if there had not been a snowstorm on the Friday,' says Show Manager, Tara Diaczyk. "I can control many variables but unfortunately I haven't quite figured out the weather one yet.'
This year the show moved to the Capital Exhibition Centre, which offered the show's 150 exhibitors more exhibiting options. Diaczyk says significant effort was made to notify consumers about the show and it's new venue. "This year we obtained almost two million media impressions with 31 pieces of coverage from radio, broadcast, print and online.'
Previously, the show was held in three separate buildings at Lansdown Park. "If the show had been at the old facility with the storm we had on Friday, the people that happened to be there would not have traveled from one building to another,' says Jeff Wilcox, President of George's Marine and Sports in Ottawa, ON. "The nice thing about being under one roof is that nobody ever has to go outside.'
According to Diaczyk, the new facility provides the show an additional 50,000-square feet of space, allowing exhibitors to bring more and larger boats to their booth spaces. Several dealers took advantage of the opportunity.
"The new facility is first class, brand new,' describes Peter Hurst, President of Hurst Marina in Manotick, ON. "It allowed us to bring boats including a 47-foot Sea Ray and 40-foot Meridians. You could certainly get up to 50-foot cruiser in there. Prior to this year, we were in a location where the biggest thing you could get in was a 33-foot model.'
Although his dealership was successful in closing sales at the show, Hurst believes there's room for improvement. "Did we do alright? Yeah, we sold some small boats – we always do. However, I believe the opportunity to let the Ottawa market know that big boats would be present was missed,' observes Hurst.
Some dealers remain excited about the show's potential for future growth. "I think that once the word gets out that the venue is very good, I think it may attract more of our consumers to stay in eastern Ontario,' says Wilcox. "We may see less traffic from eastern Ontario consumers to Toronto in early January. We were showing big boats – in fact we showed a 46-foot model. There were some good-sized boats that have never been seen in an eastern Ontario venue before. No longer do you need to travel to Toronto to see what we have to offer here.'