The marine industry was first to feel the crunch from the financial fall-out long before the rest of the world saw it coming. If the five days at the Sydney International Boat Show, held July 30 to August 3 at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, are any indication – the Australian marine industry could well be first to bust out of this recession.
An increase in visitor numbers at the Sydney International Boat Show and enthusiastic feedback from exhibitors paint a very positive picture across the industry and the economy as a whole. Coming off the back of the successful Melbourne Boat Show would prove it's no fluke either.
New South Wales (NSW) Boating Industry Association's (BIA) final figures for the show reported 71,810 visitors, compared with 70,767 last year, that's despite one less day's trading this year. A breakdown of attendance figures reveal Friday surpassed last year by 14 percent, Saturday was up 13 percent and Sunday was up 12 percent. The other two days were consistent with 2008 numbers.
“The boating industry was pleasantly surprised and delighted with the attendance figures considering the tough economic times,” said NSW BIA GM Roy Privett. “1,000 more people attended the show this year in a sign the recession may have turned a corner.”
Marine Business spoke to a wide range of exhibitors, most of which were surprised by the influx of visitors and buyers. One industry insider said Sunday's marina crowds were so thick, pontoons were weighed down causing water to slap up against the walkway.
Raymarine's Liza Sticpewich said the large number of promotional show bags on offer at its marina stand were exhausted faster than any other show recently, a genuine indicator of strong passing crowds.
“We've had a great show, some of our team said Melbourne was the best in years and Sydney has been a great follow up,” said Sticpewich.
Mustang Marine's CEO Chris Heaton was also talking up the show's positive vibe, and speaking to Marine Business on the final day, said Mustang had a lot of genuine interest and had planned sea trials for coming weeks.
“The fact that so many people are thinking about boats is a good sign for the industry … Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all good for Mustang.”
Inside the halls where most of the cash flowed, exhibitors' comments were also consistently positive. Sportsfishing Boats Australia sold almost all its boats on the stand and were confident follow up sales would happen over the coming month.
“It feels like the recession is over … people are ready to open their wallets again,” said Sportsfishing Boats Australia's Peter Jacovides.
“Last year people weren't willing to spend money, this year's show makes up for the lost year we've just had.” Jacovides debuted a new line of US Boats from FinCraft. Judging from this show's response, these cost-effective boats, with a unique transferable lifetime warranty, should have a bright future in Australia.
Matthew DeMoss, Garmin's national sales and marketing manager, said the marine electronic company's brand and product recognition was positive and much stronger than 2008 just after its separation from GME's distribution.
“This year's there's a lot more buzz and awareness, people are being referred to our products,” said DeMoss.
“Our stand had a steady flow of traffic from Thursday to Monday, a lot of positive response to enhancements on the 400 and 500 Series and a lot of people are coming to stand after hearing about the touch screen models.”
AIMEX Export of the Year winners, Muir, makers of windlasses and anchoring systems, were enthused with response from the show when Marine Business spoke to product manager Mike Thompson on the show's final day.
“There's been a lot of traffic past here … the feeling is very good, let's hope that end of the tunnel continues to shine,” said Thompson.
Despite the upturn in visitor numbers and sales, expectations were initially low and the number of boats on display was down on previous years. Marina boats were slightly down this year and inside the halls, numbers of trailerable boats were also lower. To the BIA's credit, five halls were open and full with only the small sixth hall remaining closed.
A few notable Sydney debuts included the aforementioned FinCraft Boats from Sportsfishing Boats Australia, Hooker Boats' 6.7 metre Pro Fisherman, Contender's Fly Bridge model, and Sydney based Anglapro's new aluminum line-up.
On the marina, Maritimo had its new 73 Motoryacht on display, which was.
Riviera released its 5000 Sport Yacht, one of 15 boats. Riviera CEO John Anderson told a media contingent on the opening morning that Riviera has plans to grow after it's widely publicised problems earlier in the year. “What we're working on now is our strategic plan on building Riviera,” said Anderson.
Mustang Marine released the 480 Sports Euro and Mustang 430 Sports Coupe, following up from new releases at Sanctuary Cove in May.
Back inside hall 1, Navico held demonstrations of its new StructureScan. After releasing the groundbreaking Broadband Radar at Sanctuary Cove and previously showcasing the HDS and broadband sounder technology, Navico once again came up with the goods with this impressive piece of marine electronics. The StructureScan is designed for use with Lowrance High Definition Systems (HDS) and features a combination of SideScan and exclusive new DownScan Imaging technology. The result is an image of crystal-clear clarity and never before seen definition of structure below the boat.
“We had higher expectations after Melbourne and Adelaide shows … we even had to bring in more stock for dealers on the Sunday, which is always a good sign,” said Navico Director sales & marketing Damien Weber. Navico said calls were already flooding in to its offices about the new StructureScan on the first Monday after the show. Many keen fishos are already pre-ordering the units, which are due out in November.