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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 6 months ago

Boat show organizer sees more fair seas ahead for industry

The 2022 Gulf Coast boat show season kicks off Jan. 20-23 with the 44th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

The recreational boating industry, without a doubt, has been one of the big, if not biggest, winners of the pandemic. Sales are way, way up across all categories of vessels, from entry-level runabouts to superyachts, leading retailers such as Clearwater-based MarineMax to enjoy record-shattering revenue growth.

Led by CEO Brett McGill, MarineMax reported $1.24 billion in sales in 2019, a solid, if not spectacular, improvement over 2018’s $1.18 billion. Then came 2020 … and the pandemic. The firm’s annual revenue surged to $1.51 billion, and 2021 was even better, with $2.06 billion in sales.

Courtesy. Andrew Doole, president of Informa Markets' boat show division.

Such eye-popping numbers are generating huge excitement within the marine industry as boat show season arrives. First up is the 44th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, which runs Jan. 20-23 at the city’s downtown waterfront, followed by the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, scheduled for April 22-24. 

Andrew Doole, an executive with Informa Markets, which owns both shows, expects strong attendance and robust sales for exhibitors as the lingering pandemic continues to lead families to seek outdoor recreational opportunities.

“Attendance has been very strong at every show we’ve done since last January,” Doole, president of Informa’s boat show division, tells Coffee Talk. “The boating business has been through an incredible boom. There are waiting lists [for boats] and I don’t think manufacturers will catch up until the end of 2023.”

Changing the date of the St. Pete show has also proven to be a savvy move. The show used to take place in late November or early December, but Informa moved it to mid-January, delaying the 2020 show, which had been scheduled for Dec. 3-6, to Jan. 14-17, 2021.

Doole says the St. Pete show was “fighting Santa Claus and New Year’s” for attention. Also, having it follow the busy holiday season gave vendors greater access to a demographic that tends to have plenty of disposable income and leisure time: snowbirds.


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