Promoting boating

Andy Adams 2018 Edited 400

Feb 6, 2024

The subject line for this February 6th 2024 edition of Boating Industry Canada News Week Digest is drawn from the announcement (story below) by Brunswick Corporation that their Freedom Boat Club delivered 600,000+ member trips in 2023. That’s an impressive number of trips to me and the Freedom Boat Club (and other similar boat clubs) offer a fleet of mainly larger, mainly new boats, supported by an on-site staff, and who require members to have at least some level of training before they cast off.

My point is that a person with no childhood boating experience, can get started in boating thanks to the support the clubs provide. Also, they can get started at a price that is far below the price of buying a boat to “try it out”. I have long felt that there was a high barrier to entry into boating, but the boat clubs bring that way down. For the broader benefit of our industry, I see clubs as an important development in boating, and as a natural first point of contact, I see boat shows as an important gateway to our future.

Last week I wrote about the unexpected surprise of the new boat show at Toronto’s International Centre. That show opened a week before the 2024 Toronto International Boat Show at Exhibition Place. I was at TIBS almost every day and got many questions, and many opinions from a range of exhibitors. To be sure, some were happy. Some participants in the new show said they enjoyed strong sales there. Several dealers spoke about the sales slowdown last summer when consumer interest rates rose rapidly and triggered inventory problems. But we have heard that inventories are up across North America. Ontario is not unique that way.

TIBS show management was certainly on the case and working hard to keep their exhibitors informed throughout the show. On Sunday January 28th, the last edition of the TIBS Exhibitor Newsletter went out and it included a lot of key information. First, they reminded Exhibitors about the Post Show Survey for Exhibitors and Consumers. All feedback is useful but perhaps it’s time to be a little more creative – ask ourselves what can the show be and how can the show lead the industry to better times.

TIBS show management directly addressed the questions about the date patterns and number of show days. It’s good to be open to questions like that. Those issues have a big impact on the exhibitor costs. As a direct result of the government’s luxury tax on boats, there were fewer big boats on display this year and yet, the TIBS show floor still looked great and there seemed to be more boats on display at accessible prices.

I thought that the marketing promotions were especially good this year and yet, attendance was flat or even down a little. Are we sending the right message? The population of southern Ontario is growing rapidly. The show attendance should be growing too.

We enjoy an embarrassment of world-class boating areas in this part of Canada and it seems logical that we should be promoting that to our many new residents. The Toronto International Boat Show should be the bright and vibrant expression of our boating lifestyle and the gateway to discovering boating. It seems that the two shows have stimulated more discussion than usual and that is a positive. I hope you contribute your best ideas and input to the discussion of promoting boating.

Andy Adams – Editor

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