Dealers were apprehensive going into the New Orleans Boat Show this past weekend because of the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, but most came away pleased with the results, says show manager Barbara Sclafani.
"I'm really happy with the success the dealers had at this show," she said in a telephone interview. "Everyone was happy."
The show took place March 8 to 12 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It had been rescheduled from Feb. 8 to 12 because of the damage to the original venue, the New Orleans Superdome, following Hurricane Katrina.
Sclafani said many of the area dealers were worried going into the show. Besides the uncertainty of the buying mood people would be in after having their lives turned upside down, many of the dealers were still recovering from the hurricane. Even those who didn't suffer much damage to their businesses are hurting because their employees have been displaced by the hurricane.
As expected, attendance was down this year by about 28 percent. But, while the crowds were smaller, Sclafani said those that came were in a buying mood.
"Sales were exceptionally strong," she said.
Many of the attendees were people from around the region who, Sclafani believes, had homes and boats damaged by the hurricane. The homes will take longer to rebuild, but buying a boat gives them more immediate satisfaction.
"I feel that people are trying to get their lives back to normal," she said.
Many dealers told Sclafani this was the best show they had in years, and they're "bending over backwards" to accommodate those sales. She said sales ran the gamut in terms of boat size. In fact, being relocated to the convention center proved advantageous because it allowed more room for bigger boats. This was the first time the show was able to accommodate boats in the 45-foot range.
"The exhibitors enjoyed the change and the attendees enjoyed the change," said Sclafani.
No decision has been made yet on whether the show will remain at the convention center in future years or return to the Superdome. "We'll have to see what happens," she said.