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The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show evolved into a summer event for the whole family

The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show that ended on Sunday saw its attendance rise by seven per cent from the previous year. New boat registrations in Finland are on an upward trend, and the number of exhibitors at the event also reflected this: there were more than 155 exhibitors present with over 280 boats on display, and they were pleased with the show. Over the past years, the four-day event has expanded from a conventional boat show into a summer event for the entire family. People come there to spend time with family and friends.

"We are truly happy with the event. Almost 14,000 people attended it, representing a strong growth of 7 per cent from one year ago. We have received a lot of positive feedback from visitors and exhibitors alike, and it is great to see how people come to the event not just to see the boats and buy themselves one but also to have a good time," says Jarkko Pajusalo, Managing Director of the Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat, the organising body.

From a boat show into a family summer event

In addition to the boats, the event featured a varied programme offering. For example, the renowned solo sailors Ari Huusela and Tapio Lehtinen attended the event as speakers and were greeted by packed stands when hitting the stage at the Venemestari magazine's dock on every day of the event. The flyboard and jet-ski demos were another daily highlight. The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show has indeed evolved from a conventional boat show into a well-rounded event for spending pastime and meeting friends.

We talked to Nina who came to the event with her husband, 6-year-old son and the family pet dog from the adjacent city of Vantaa. Nina was extremely happy with her boat show visit.

"The atmosphere in the area was laid-back and comfortable, and there was something on offer for everyone in the family. We were particularly taken aback by the wild performance of the duo featuring one guy on a personal watercraft and another one flying in the air on a water jet. As our six-year-old son put it: 'That was one spectacular performance!' We will certainly come again."

Sailboats in the water attracted visitor interest

The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show provides a unique setting for exhibiting sailboats, as the boats can be displayed in their own element, ready for sailing with the masts, sails and lines in place. This explains why companies selling sailboats consider it the most important boat show in Finland.

"The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show is definitely the biggest event of the year for sailboats and one you cannot afford to miss. Here people get to familiarise with the boats in their proper element. We exhibited two Beneteau sailboats, and at times people had to wait in line to board them. We made a lot of offers and believe to seal some deals yet as well. We reckon that especially the new Beneteau 30.1 is a very suitable boat for the Finnish market and that it is competitively priced even against second-hand boats," said Antti Saarisalo of Ajola Yachts.

D Marin Oy, an authorised Swan sailboat repair shop, was a first-time exhibitor at this year's event, displaying a Swan 38 they had repaired over the previous winter.

"Lots of interested visitors came by, and many of them requested an offer. Among them were Swan sailboat owners requiring assistance for repairs as well as prospective buyers looking for expert help. The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show gave us an opportunity to exhibit concrete results of our work, while customers got to observe the quality of workmanship with their own eyes and in detail," says Jan Sjösten of D Marin.

Prospective motorboat buyers attracted by the expanded test run opportunities

At the Kippari magazine's pier there were seven boats and a jet ski available for test runs. These boats saw plenty of action, almost 500 test runs in all. The motorboat piers were likewise busy with activity. This year's event marked the first time that also these boats were available for test runs, and this opportunity attracted plenty of interest among visitors, serving to boost their enthusiasm for buying a boat. The number of new boat registrations in Finland is on the increase this year, and the level of interest shown by the visitors only underlined this trend.

"This was definitely the best Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show ever! The weather was clement, and there were more people there than in the previous years. Visitors felt positive about this year's summer and showed eagerness to purchase a new boat or trade their current model for a newer or bigger one. Things got busy at the Honda pier, and we were able to close deals right then and there. This was the first time that the exhibited boats were available for test runs, and the opportunity brought us a lot of new customers as well," said Christoffer Wallgren, Export Manager for the company Oy Brandt Ab that markets Silver, Faster and Terhi boats, among others.

"At this year's event we made more offers to prospective customers than last time around. Particularly our new models, the AMT 210 DC and the BR, attracted interest. Another clearly popular category is the 5.5-metre-long basic boat with either aluminium or GRP hull. The boats tallied more test runs than in years past, thanks to the new opportunity for visitors to test run the exhibition boats," added Mikael Winqvist, Managing Director of AMT Boats.

The boat industry is a significant employer in Finland: the companies in the field directly employ 3,500 people, while the total employment effect lies between 4,000 and 6,000 people. Boat manufacturing is going strong in Finland, unlike in the other Nordic countries. In the previous year, as much as 73 per cent of Finnish production was exported from the country.

The next major event in the boat industry in Finland will be the Helsinki International Boat Show, arranged at Messukeskus, Helsinki's expo and convention centre, between 7 and 16 February 2020. The Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show will again take place in August 2020.