• Visitors queue to get into the 2017 Perth International Boat Show.
    Visitors queue to get into the 2017 Perth International Boat Show.
  • Fishing gear abounded at the Exhibition Centre.
    Fishing gear abounded at the Exhibition Centre.
  • Electronic equipment was well represented at the show.
    Electronic equipment was well represented at the show.
  • Hobie reported great sales, exceeding last year's Mandurah result on Day 1.
    Hobie reported great sales, exceeding last year's Mandurah result on Day 1.
  • Cranes tower above Elizabeth Quay, which is an area organisers will work on before the next show.
    Cranes tower above Elizabeth Quay, which is an area organisers will work on before the next show.
  • Big boat access was poor but attracted serious buyer interest regardless.
    Big boat access was poor but attracted serious buyer interest regardless.
  • WA BIA president Mike Beanland addresses the opening brunch.
    WA BIA president Mike Beanland addresses the opening brunch.
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Exhibitors praise new Perth International Boat Show

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Excellent visitor numbers and strong sales made the move to the new venue a masterstroke for the WA BIA, reports Roger McMillan.

Exhibitors and visitors have universally praised the Club Marine Perth International Boat Show which was held at the new Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre last weekend. Despite rain and cold temperatures, crowds flocked to the event and good business was written. Over the four days almost 15,600 people bought tickets and over 50 boats were sold, according to exhibitor reports.

It was a welcome return to the venue for the exhibitors, who in previous years had been exposed to the elements at the Mandurah show, an outdoor event.

Steve Fields of Hobie Australia reported that by 2pm on the first day, they had surpassed the sales they did during the entire Mandurah show the previous year.

“There are customers here, they have money and they want to buy,” he said. “This (the Perth Convention Centre) is where it needs to be. It's another Sydney type of arena and has the potential to be something really special.”

Neil Webster of Brig Boats echoed Steve Fields' sentiments. “It's fantastic to see that the industry has got together. This is light years ahead of Mandurah. The venue is perfect and the vast majority of exhibitors have put a lot of effort into their displays.

“The organisers have done a great job and the reality is that there is now a future for the boating industry in WA.”

All the exhibitors said the quality of the leads was very good. On the first day, Mercury reported that they were getting genuine enquiries and people were asking the right questions. The 'simulator' they had on display didn't stop working all weekend. Yamaha said their dealers sold more than 100 engines.

Recfish sold out of lifejackets and had to order more in while a local fishing publication had sold 40 of the 100 showbags they had produced by the end of the first day. Catch N Release Anchor Retrieval System sold all of their stock before lunch time on the Saturday, and reported at least one sale to an international buyer

Over at the Clipper Ventures stand, they weren't specifically selling places on the round-the-world yacht race but instead were raising awareness for when the race comes to Fremantle in late November. “We're flying the flag,” they said, pleased with the amount of traffic past their stand.

On the Pond

Bigger boats and the sailing exhibitions were located at Elizabeth Quay on the Swan River, a short walk from the convention centre. The strong winds and showery weather made life less pleasant out there, but still the exhibitors enjoyed good enquiries and a steady stream of visitors.

Australian Sailing were running free 'Discover Sailing' activities for children and adults, and over the four days recorded more than 1,000 registered participants. They said they will definitely be back in future years.

Rachel Crook from Multihull Solutions reported: “We were pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors to the show who braved the weather over the weekend. We were able to confirm one Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 sailing catamaran for delivery in 2019 for a WA couple. We saw quite a few of our WA owners which was fantastic, and great to catch up with members of the Fountaine Pajot family. The MY 37 power catamaran was very well received and we are busy following up several strong enquiries from the show.

“Although it was a shame that the new location doesn’t permit our popular sailing catamaran range to be exhibited, it was great to be in the middle of Perth and easily accessible for most clients.”

Rachel was referring to one of the problems with the Quay, which is access. A fixed pedestrian bridge restricts the height and size of boats able to be displayed. Organisers are well aware of the problem and hope to convince the government to replace the fixed bridge with a swing bridge of some sort, to allow bigger powerboats and yachts to be part of the show. A noticeable absence, especially compared with Sydney, was production yachts and multihulls in the 30ft and upwards range.

BIA of WA president, Mike Beanland commented: “We want to grow Elizabeth Quay and make it more suitable for boats at the show.”

Timing

Perth's weather is very predictable and once October starts, clear skies and warm weather are almost guaranteed. I asked Beanland about the decision to hold the show in September. He replied that it was a question of availability. The new convention centre is in big demand and the September time slot was the only one available. Also, he said that Perth had had some excellent weather leading up to the show but organisers just “got unlucky” with the actual days.

Although some exhibitors said a later show would be good, Neal Webster of Brig Boats disagreed, saying that “if you leave it too late you can't order stock in time for summer”.

The only change he would make, which was also echoed by others, was to include at least one late night. The show was open from 10am to 6pm and Webster said that staying open until 8pm on the Friday night would entice more city workers to come down. “You could even offer them a reduced entry price – say $15 from 4pm until 8pm.”

Location

One of the obvious advantages the new venue offers for the show is its location in the centre of the city. Overlooked by office towers bearing the logos of major companies such as Wesfarmers, Rio Tinto, BHP and Woodside, it is surrounded by hotels and apartment buildings and a major new development is going up right next to Elizabeth Quay.

The city's main rail and bus stations are right outside the venue, meaning public transport access is possible from everywhere in the city and as far south as Mandurah.

Industry future

It is no secret that the WA economy has taken a beating since the end of the mining boom. A lack of marina berths has also exacerbated the problem for dealers who sell boats that are too large for a trailer.

Despite these obstacles, the 2017 Perth International Boat Show demonstrated that the marine industry is alive and well in the West. Exhibition space was sold out, meaning some displays had to be set up in the foyer. In future years, all six pavilions will be available so more exhibitors can be accommodated.

As word passes around, both among potential exhibitors and potential visitors, of the success of this year's show, we can look forward to a bigger and even better offering in 2018.

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