The 71st annual Seattle Boat Show concluded on Saturday, February 3, and the 2.1% increase in attendance over last year is a great reason for the industry to celebrate. The nine-day event attracted 52,928 visitors this year, compared to the 51,864 from last year. The data indicate that visitors hailed from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, and from overseas countries like Australia. The event is organized by the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA).
“We were very pleased to see an increase in attendance,” said George Harris, President/CEO of the NMTA, in a press release. “Attendees showed up with enthusiasm, ready to shop, plan, and prepare for every type of boating in the Northwest, and the reports from our exhibitors are some of the most positive we’ve seen in years.”
The precise reason for the show’s uptick in attendance is anybody’s guess. The addition of the Bell Harbor in-water location was a success, according to exhibitor Ashley Harper, the Creative and Marketing Director for Alexander Marine USA.
“The 2018 Seattle Boat Show proved to be our most successful show in years. The addition of the Bell Harbor Marina venue was a fantastic way to engage new boating enthusiasts from all around the region. Our Ocean Alexander 100 with the beautiful Seattle skyline in the background was the most popular spot in the show with lines during all hours to get a peek. We are looking forward to more sales from the show and a great start to the 2018 boating season!” says Harper.
Micah Bowers, CEO of Life Proof Boats, echoed Harper’s sentiment as a Bell Harbor exhibitor.
“We loved the addition of Bell Harbor Marina to the show. We not only had boats on display at the indoor location, but we were also able to offer sea trials from Bell Harbor, which was enormously successful. Everyone who went for a ride ended up writing a check.”
The bullish Washington boating industry at large could also help explain 2018’s success. As we reported last issue, the Washington Department of Licensing and Washington Sea Grant have released a year-end report on boat sales that shows a 24.5 percent in units increase in boat sales from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the same quarter of 2016. Total value of boat sales increased by 30 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2017. The strong market continues a multi-year growth trend, but is a noteworthy uptick from the 9.5 percent in units sold and 24.8 percent in total value between the fourth quarter of 2015 and 2016.
Additionally, newly released boat sales numbers from Washington Sea Grant and the Washington Department of Licensing show that new boat sales went up 21.6 percent in units and 87.2 percent in value for January 2018 compared to January 2017. Anecdotally, many of the show’s attendees were not just tire kicking either. James Baker, Vice President of the Seattle Boat Company, was very pleased.
“Pre-show sales were gangbusters for us and the momentum continued through the show. We’re delighted to be part of what we believe is the best boat show in the country,” said Baker in a press release. “We saw a great balance of sales in all categories. And as pleasing, we saw people new to Seattle and Seattle boating. We anticipate a great year ahead.”
“In 25 years of doing this show, this is the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve seen,” said Jeff Messmer, Vice President of Ranger Tugs/Cutwater Boats. “People were here not just looking but looking to purchase a boat. We sold more boats than ever before at a boat show.”