VIBS AttendanceWith steady attendance, motivated shoppers, and strong boat and retail sales, the 2014 Vancouver International Boat Show appeared to forecast a positive year ahead for the West Coast recreational boating industry.

This year, VIBS moved to new dates – January 22-26 ¬– from its traditional slot in early February, which conflicted with BC’s new Family Day long weekend. While total attendance at the indoor and floating venues was down slightly from 2013 – to 31,338 – the real story was the quality and enthusiasm of attendees, and the resulting onsite sales and lead generation. 

Exhibitors reported seeing motivated customers right from the show’s opening on Wednesday, and by the weekend boat dealers and retailers were enthusiastic about their results.

“This has been our best year ever at the Vancouver Boat Show,” said Dave Turner of Port Boat House. “We were selling steadily throughout the show and have seen crowds of enthusiastic buyers come through this year. We were also excited to see new customers from Alberta and the Interior of BC come down for the show.”

“The weather was on our side. Attendees arrived very motivated and excited to get out on the water,” said Bob Pappajohn of M&P Mercury. “We finished the show on a strong note with a significant increase in sales from last year.”

“We really noticed a difference in the quality of  customers that came through this year,” said Brendan Keys of GA Checkpoint. “Overall our sales were excellent and we believe it’s a good sign for things to come for the upcoming boating season.”

Salim Ladha of Steveston Marine, the Lower Mainland’s largest marine retailer, said overall attendance didn’t really impact on sales. “We found the attendance to be steady and our overall sales were good – on par with the success we had back in 2012.”

VIBS’ new dates followed the Toronto International Boat Show closely and coincided with the opening weekend of the Seattle Boat Show, resulting in some notable absences in Vancouver as exhibitors were unable to overcome timing conflicts for displays and staff. But unusually dry, sunny weather throughout the show brought out the crowds – particularly at the floating exhibits on the docks at Granville Island ¬– and put show-goers in a cheery, let’s-go-boating mood. Overall, the atmosphere was as positive as most observers remembered in several years, boding well for the health of the industry in 2014.

The local industry’s success at introducing boating to BC’s Asian community was also more evident than ever this year. Seminars and show tours in Mandarin targeted Asian customers and brought them to the venues; dealers report growing sales of power and sailboats into this new market.

VIBS also attracted strong media interest and coverage this year, much of it for actress Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann on the ‘60s TV series Gilligan’s Island and appeared at BC Place with the show’s original SS Minnow, now immaculately restored and berthed in Nanaimo BC.