PHOTOS: Naples Boat Show setting sail through Sunday

Kurt Hatlieb polishes a million dollar Riva 33' speed boat, built in Italy. On Saturday crowds showed up for the 44th Annual Marine Industries Naples Boat Show, the show runs January 27-30. Photo /Gary Jung

Photo by GARY JUNG // Buy this photo

Kurt Hatlieb polishes a million dollar Riva 33' speed boat, built in Italy. On Saturday crowds showed up for the 44th Annual Marine Industries Naples Boat Show, the show runs January 27-30. Photo /Gary Jung

— Organizers of the 44th annual Naples Boat Show expect thousands to flock to the event to see new product lines and provide a boost to an industry that has been particularly hit hard.

The Naples Boat show runs Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., near the intersection of Goodlette-Frank Road and Fifth Avenue South in Naples, and will feature 66 vendors, 200 boats and is expected to draw 8,000 visitors.

Frank Perrucci, president of the Marine Industries Association of Collier County, said he is optimistic going into this year’s show.

“Boat sales are looking up from a year ago,” Perrucci said. “It’s good to see it.”

By “looking up,” sales are actually leveling off from a steep, three-year nose dive, according to Winnie Kowalski, a data analyst with Statistical Surveys, Inc., a Michigan-based company that provides market information to the marine, manufactured housing, and RV industries throughout the United States.

According to Kowalski, the national market for boat sales was down a little over 11 percent in 2010, with fiberglass boats taking the hardest hit and being down almost 17 percent. She compares last year’s numbers to 2009, when the national market was down more than 25 percent.

In Florida, she said, 2010 sales were down 19 percent from 2009.

To put last year’s 19 percent decline in perspective, Kowalski said that in Florida, 18,600 boats were sold in 2009, compared to 26,000 boats sold in 2008 — which represents a 28 percent decrease in sales. She then compared those numbers to 2007, which saw 39,800 boats sold in Florida.

Kowalski said this leveling off offers hope to the ailing industry, and that she is cautiously optimistic about a recovery.

“It won’t be a fast climb,” she said. “But hopefully it will start to be a steady climb.”

Gary Jackson, assistant professor of Economics at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Regional Economics Research Institute, said boats are considered both durable goods and luxury goods, and that “sales would be a good indication of a recovering economy.”

“During this time, people can wait on bigger durable goods, whether that be a car or a boat,” Jackson said about the gradually recovering economy.

Jackson said because Southwest Florida is both a vacation and retirement destination, “improvement in the overall economy nationwide helps us — whether that means more people moving here, buying boats and upgrading facilities.”

At the Marine Industries Association of Collier County, Frank Perrucci said that in addition to showing boats, this year’s event will feature RVs and cars, as well as music, food and a guest appearance on Saturday by Edgar Hansen from the Discovery Channel series, “The Deadliest Catch.”

Our goal, Perrucci said, is to have “the best event for our local dealers here, as well as an event for the show guests.”

Parking is free and tickets are $10 for adults. Children enter for free.

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