As I pen this, the Australasian boat show season has well and truly kicked off, with the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show having been run in Auckland in early May, followed by the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show the following week on the Gold Coast. Then we have the Melbourne Boat Show to follow, just as this edition of the magazine arrives in mailboxes.
No one in the marine industry on either side of the Tasman needs me to tell them that we are experiencing tough times at present. Ever since the financial tsunami, otherwise known as the GFC, rolled through the world’s major economies back in late 2008, marine businesses everywhere have seen sales plummet as buyers held on to whatever money they had.
While much of the Australian economy seemed to dodge the more harmful effects of the GFC, sections most dependent on discretionary spending – high on the list being the marine industry – continue to suffer.
So we have all waited with bated breath to see how 2011 would unfold, with expectations of a recovery and an upswing in boat sales. Recently there have been encouraging signs of a turnaround, with many exhibitors at the Hutchwilco show reporting strong sales and consumer interest, but the situation in Australia remains unclear and clouded by uncertainty. With the traditional opening show of the season now having been run at Sanctuary Cove – and despite less than favourable weather for the event – it would seem that there are positive signs that things are starting to turn in our favour, although this seems predominantly to be in the bigger boat sector. Many in the trailer boat area of the market are continuing to do it tough and are hoping that consumer confidence will rise soon – and sales along with it.
But there is one aspect of the current situation that, for me at least, provides encouragement; something that, I believe, points to a positive outcome for the industry further down the track.
I’m talking here of the many innovative and exciting new craft and other products that continue to be produced by the Australasian marine industry.
The first two events I attended at Sanctuary Cove were hosted by two of our most iconic and respected manufacturers – Maritimo/Mustang and Riviera. Both companies have undergone major internal restructuring due to the impact of the GFC, but both have continued to place a high priority on innovation and quality.
Riviera unveiled two craft at Sanctuary Cove – the feature-packed 53 Enclosed Flybridge and the 61 Series II Flybridge (tested elsewhere in this edition). Both boats wouldn’t look out of place alongside any of the big name manufacturers on the world stage and, indeed, according to Riviera, both have already generated considerable interest in the northern hemisphere – despite currently unfavourable exchange rates.
Archrival Maritimo/Mustang also drew a lot of media and buyer interest with several new craft, including the Mustang 32 and the spectacular Mustang 50 – the latter being what must have been the best-kept secret in the lead-up to the show. Even a casual observer would come away from a tour of this boat mightily impressed by the level of design innovation and the premium quality of the finish, presentation and layout.
I have chosen two of the more illustrious names in the marine industry as examples, but my point could equally apply to manufacturers of smaller trailer craft and the many, many accessories manufacturers.
Despite ongoing pressures and uncertainty, many in our marine industry remain determined to strive for the absolute best in quality and design and the best place to see this is at a boat show. This is why Club Marine supports and sponsors so many boat shows, both here and in New Zealand. You’ll read elsewhere about our plans to reward Club Marine members who attend selected boat shows with ‘mystery gifts’ and we are also offering member discounts for entry to some shows.
We believe our marine industry builds some of the best boats and accessories in the world and I’d encourage all our members to visit a show this year and see for yourselves what a great job our manufacturers are doing in what, for many, are very tough times.
CEO and Publisher,