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TORONTO To drive show attendance and attract qualified attendees, organizers of the Toronto International Boat Show aimed to highlight new attractions this year—like the chance to go wakeboarding on an indoor lake—through an advertising campaign designed to promote show features, said show manager Cynthia Hare of Canadian Boat Shows Inc.
“The show features are big for us,” Hare said of the show, which began on Saturday and runs until January 16 at the Direct Energy Centre. “There is a staff of about five of us that work on the show all year. In the springtime we start our marketing plan and we begin to pull a larger team together. We start brainstorming on possible show features and what we can add.”
“For the past few years we've had a wakeboard show. This year we decided to do something different. You can sign up for a wakeboard lesson. It's been received really well,” Hare said. Show visitors can also sign up for a free boat ride and can choose to kayak, canoe, or paddle boat on the indoor lake, set up inside Ricoh Coliseum.
“We bring in new features to get people coming as the show goes on,” she said, noting that Duma (a waterskiing Jack Russell terrier) and Zac Sunderland (who sailed around the world at age 16) will both make appearances during the final weekend. “We try to be very strategic in everything we do.” Organizers also work with Holmes Creative Communications to hype up the event prior to the show. “We had a media day out on the lake,” Hare said. “We try and do things that get the show into people's minds.”
The team conducts annual consumer and exhibitor surveys that are used in the planning process, Hare said. “We take a lot of direction from people.” More than 90,000 visitors are expected to attend the 53rd annual show, which features 600 exhibitors and displays with more than 1,000 boats. Sixty-six per cent of visitors to the show own a boat.
“There's always a debate about how we should give the show a fresh new look,” Hare said, explaining that organizers prefer not to switch things up on the exhibit floor. “Our exhibitors like knowing that people know where to find them.” Rather, Hare said organizers attempt to keep things fresh through the addition of new attractions.
Additional features of the nine-day show include more than 100 seminars, a Caribbean-themed restaurant called Canadian Yachting's Island Village, the Great Canadian Fish Tank, a Kids Fishing Zone, and a Cottage Country Zone. “There's something for everyone here at the show,” Hare said. “We really try to promote the boating lifestyle, which is an active one.”