The internet has forever changed sales markets throughout the world. Brick-and-mortor storefronts have a hard time competing with Amazon, bookstores are few and far between, and travel agents have had to re-invent themselves to stay relevant in the world. E-commerce has changed the boating industry as well, as more and more savvy shoppers are drawn to the internet for researching models, configurations, pricing, and options. The internet is changing how people buy boats and changing how people use their boats, but despite all of this, there is one thing the internet hasn’t killed and won't ever kill: boat shows.
In a market dominated by Yachtworld, in-depth manufacturer websites, instant access to online boat reviews, opinion forums, and a half-dozen other resources are always at your fingertips. But boat shows play a vital role both in the discovery process and in the purchase decision. The boat show offers prospective buyers several key experiences that cannot be gained behind a keyboard. As TrawlerFest approaches (May 2-5, Bremerton, Washington ... and in Baltimore, Maryland this fall), let’s look at some of the benefits a boat show offers to both the new and experienced buyer.
Attending a boat show allows you to experience various and similar boats all in one place. You can get aboard to feel out the size and layout, proportion of the spaces, quality of the joinery, engine room, and the application of varnish. By getting aboard you can start to picture how that boat might work for you, or not work for you. The ability to get aboard multiple boats lets you compare features, experience different layouts, and even compare different styles of boats. Even in a future world of VR, it is impossible to imagine that the same sensory perceptions that you can gain at a boat show could be replicated inside a pair of goggles.
Speak with Professionals
While brokers are interested in generating and selling listings, they are most often interested in doing that by figuring out if they have an option that is right for you. This means that a boat show gives you the opportunity to talk to various brokers about the sort of boating that you want to do. Brokers will then help you hash out what your vision is and what the right boat is that matches your cruising needs. If it is their boat, great, they will show you why their boat fits your vision. A good broker, though, will understand that if a particular boat isn’t right for you, they should point you in a different direction. Many brokers are boaters and understand what works and what doesn't in the researching and buying process, and most are great about helping you get there.
Being at a boat show allows you to compare the features on boats side-by- side and discuss them with different brokers, but it also allows you access to a whole different layer of professionals through the many outfitters and other vendors you’ll find at a show. Vendor booths give you access to various professionals that can consult with you from a number of vantage points. If you need bank lending, want to install a satellite TV, or enclose your flybridge with canvas and isinglass, boat shows offer a wide array of on-shore help for first-time boat buyers to match your cruising needs. Some new boats won’t come with all the needed bells and whistles and used boats are often going to have features that are lacking entirely or you may want to update. The ability to get the opinion of professionals at the show makes the boat show a great one-stop shop.
Meeting Fellow Boaters
Another overlooked aspect of boat shows is the social side; boat shows are common "ground" for meeting people who have undoubtedly similar interests. Perhaps the commonality is found in a particular model, or perhaps the shared interest is in a cruising region yet to be explored, but either way, for boaters, the event is an opportunity to meet and share ideas with one another. Boat shows are the pre-rendezvous of rendezvous, where customers can shop for their first boat or their 20th but know that everyone around them is interested in the same thing. Who knows, maybe someday that friendly couple that you met on the docks will be the sharing a dinner table with you at a future Kadey-Krogen, Hampton, or Ranger Tugs Rendezvous ...
Bang for the Buck
As we can’t comment on the price or value of every boat show, we can say with certainty that you are getting great bang for your buck coming to TrawlerFest ($15 dollars in advance, $18 dollars at the gate, and $10 dollars online with the discount code "TFestVIP"). If you are new to boating or just getting interested in buying your first new or used boat, you can come get a real taste of what boating is like and how to fulfill your boating dreams for less than $20. At TrawlerFest, you can wander the docks, inspect a wide variety of boats from 25-70 feet, collect advice from experts in one of our incredible seminars, and get help mapping out your boating dream. Sure, you can do some of this online, but a boat show provides you something that is irreplaceable: a central location with knowledgeable professionals, amongst fellow cruisers (or dreamers), all with the ability to touch countertops, visit the engine room, and smell the varnish. You can't get that online.