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Citing Concern Over Coronavirus Uncertainty

Citing Concern Over Coronavirus Uncertainty, Oklahoma
Dealers back out of Tulsa Boat Show for 2021

          At least 29 popular brands of new boats will not be represented at the Tulsa Boat Show after several major dealers from Grand Lake and throughout the State of Oklahoma announced they will not be participating in the 2021 Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show. Grand Lake Boat Sales, MarineMax Oklahoma, Nichols Marine (Monkey Island, Tulsa, Norman, McAlester), and Ugly John’s Custom Boats (Grand Lake and Catoosa) made the announced this week that, due to concern over the unpredictability of the Coronavirus situation in Oklahoma and the nation, they are not comfortable with making the early commitment required to participate in the show, currently scheduled for February 1-7, 2021.

          “To make such a significant financial commitment required seven months ahead of the show dates in times of such uncertainty in our state and nation is just not something we are prepared to do,” said Chris Byrd, General Manager of MarineMax Oklahoma. “It’s not just the Tulsa Show. Nationwide, our company is not committing to any shows anywhere in the country right now,” he said.

         “Professional basketball, baseball and hockey are planning seasons with no spectators allowed in the stands,” added Gary Nichols, owner of Nichols Marine. “We don’t know what might happen with the pandemic between now and February, but that’s just the point. If people aren’t going to the most popular sporting events in the nation, I’m concerned that they’re not going to boat shows, either.”

          “Several boat shows have already been canceled or put on hold,” added John Mullen, owner of Ugly John’s Custom Boats. Mullen has been an exhibitor at the show for 44 years. “Right here at home, the Oklahoma State Fair has been canceled. On Grand Lake, both yacht clubs and a popular restaurant had to be closed without notice on the 4 the of July – the busiest day of the year – because of unexpected positive tests for Covid-19,” he said. “It’s just not a good time to roll the dice with a major financial commitment seven months out to a show that, in the end, people may not be comfortable attending,” he said.

          Kevin McClure, General Manager of Grand Lake Boat Sales, pointed out that plans have not even been finalized for schools or college athletic events, although some major universities have announced that they do not plan to host in-person classroom sessions after Thanksgiving.

          “We still don’t know what college or NFL football season is going to look like – or if there will even be such a thing this year,” he said. “The entire shopping and buying process is changing – not just for boats, but for everything. We have no way of knowing how comfortable people will be gathering in large numbers in a closed building the first of February, or if conditions may change to the point government won’t even allow such a gathering. It’s just too big of a risk to make such a firm commitment seven months away from the show date. That’s the requirement the show has put on us,” McClure said.

          “Kevin’s right,” added Chris Byrd. “We may look back on this decision in five or ten years and wonder why we didn’t do it sooner. The vast majority of our leads and subsequent sales are coming from online inquiries. We’re already working on plans for a joint ‘virtual’ boat show or other cooperative venture that does not require a total commitment so far in advance, and some significant marketing changes as we move forward. The reality is, the marketplace is changing. The Coronavirus just brought it to the forefront of everyone’s attention.”

          If the show does go on as planned, February 1-7, 2021, attendees will undoubtedly notice the absence of representation of twenty-nine of the most popular brands in today’s marketplace: Aquila, ATX, Aviara, Azimut, Bennington, Boston Whaler, Carver, Caymas, Chaparrral, Chris- Craft, Coach, Crest, Cruisers, Formula, Galeon, JC Tritoons, MasterCraft, Monterey, NauticStar, Nautique, Ocean Alexander, Premier, Ranger, Robalo, Scout, Sea Ray, Triton, Vortex, and Vexus.

          The dealers were unanimous in their wishes for the best possible outcome for the Tulsa Show in which each of them has participated for decades. They were also unanimous, however, in their concern for the health and safety of their employees and customers, and their reluctance to make such a large financial commitment in such uncertain times, especially in a marketplace that is ever-changing.


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