Around 15 US companies are currently in Australia as part of the Sydney International Boat Show’s first-ever USA Pavilion

The 52nd edition of the Sydney International Boat Show (SIBS) opened on Thursday with the first-ever USA Pavilion – a block of 15 equipment, component and boat manufacturers exhibiting in a single location as part of the National Marine Manufactures’ Association (NMMA) Export Development Program.

Along with the NMMA, officials from the US Department of Commerce and the states of Florida and North Carolina, which offered financial assistance to boating-related companies in their states to attend SIBS and try to establish business relationships in a market that is not impacted by the current tariff war between the US and its trading partners.

One such company, Stingray Boats, is in Australia to recapture business it lost during the global financial crisis.

“We have always had our eye on Australia even before the tariffs,” marketing and sales VP Bob vanVollenhoven, told IBI on the opening day. “We like the international cycle and the international business. It’s roughly 10-15% of our business, so when its good, it helps with business. And sometimes when the US economy or exchange rates go counter, it helps lift,” he said.

VanVollenhoven said that the EU and Canada account for roughly 300 boats a year for the builder and that their European business was off as much as 50%.

“So was Canada,” vanVollenhoven explained. “But it’s come back, though not fully. Now it’s July and people tend to wait for the new model year.”

Stingray had a good year in the US this year, but worked with its dealers on some promotional programs to help stimulate sales.

“Boat show season wasn’t off the charts. It wasn’t bad, but you didn’t get that next turn, and then the weather from Virginia to Canada was a cold, soggy mess and we decided if we don’t do something, there is no hope of making 2020 a good year.”

As for SIBS, vanVollenhoven said Stingray is looking to make initial new contacts and rekindle old relationships.

“With the right partner, we could put a deal together during the course of the show, but they want to know who we are, we want to know who they are, so this is a long-term plan.

“At the end we want to come away with a couple of opportunities, either direct dealer or distributor; it’s just building contacts, and in the next model year, 2020, if we can start shipping boats here, that’s a success.”

Stingray will be celebrating 40 years at its dealer meeting in September, where it will be introducing a new 27ft model.