The All Wales Boat Show in Conwy has been praised for boosting the local economy – with the first yacht sold within minutes of the gates opening.
Thousands flocked to the three-day event at Conwy Quay marina, which featured luxury yachts through to power boats, coracles and even bath tubs.
“This is a fantastic event, not just for this area but the whole of Wales, as it raises the profile of the marine leisure industry, which has huge tourism potential, both on coastal waters and inland waterways” said Mr Skates.
“This is a sector that is worth £200m to the Welsh economy and growing rapidly.
In Wales it is up by 3.9%, compared with 0.3% in the rest of the UK, according to the latest data. What’s crucial for the future development of the marine leisure industry is water quality, and I’m pleased to say that here in Wales we have some of the cleanest water.
“I’m glad to see so many local companies supporting this event, as it helps to bring in visitors to North Wales to take part in the many outdoor activities we have on offer.
“I’ve only tried sailing on holiday before, so it was very enjoyable trying out the sailing simulator. Think I need bit more practice, though,” added Mr Skates.
Friday saw a steady day of boat sales as serious boaters headed to the marina, with Conwy Network Yacht Brokers clinching its first deal, for a £60,000 boat at 10am. The company notched up many more sales across the weekend, said show Davina Carey-Evans.
“I know they had six on Saturday, and I do believe Ideal Boats from Pwllheli had a few confirmed sales, but I’ve not had chance to talk to him. Companies like Sunseeker and Hanse also reported they had plenty of leads for their new boats – they were extremely pleased.
“Ticket sales were up on last year for the Friday, when we had a lot of serious boating people visiting, while on Saturday we were full to capacity – and on Sunday, sales were again very strong, when we had lots of tourists thanks to the lovely weekend weather.
“The event has also helped bring plenty of people to Conwy town itself. For example, on Saturday 700 went on the Conwy Cruiser from the marina to the harbour side – that’s a lot of extra people visiting the town, buying food and drinks and looking around the shops.”
After his official opening, the Deputy Minister went on to tour stands on Conwy Marina and meet local companies, and popped aboard a 20ft speedboat, a Chaparral on show with Pwllheli based Ideal boats. Plus he took time speak to youngsters considering a marine career, with Coleg Llandrillo Menai and Outdoor Tourism.
Among those he met was trainee boatbuilder and former batman David Low from Llandudno, who switched careers after reading a leaflet on marine studies from last year’s show.
“I’m originally from Australia though I’ve lived here for 10 years and I wanted a new career, I saw the leaflet and went along to an open day at the college,” said the 29-year-old. “I’ve just now got an apprenticeship to restore the Halon II, an old fishing boat on Conwy Marina.”
Mr Skates also met RNLI former helmsman Phil Denham, who showed how he demonstrates sea safety around the UK.
“This event is very useful because we get to meet people who have an interest in water sports and to show them how important water safety is, and so prevent the need for a lifeboat to be launched to save them,” said Phil, from Blackpool.
Also on offer at the show were coracles, with visitors challenged to have a go at breaking the world record for paddling a bath-tub and potentially earn themselves a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Among those trying out the sport was Niamh Boote, who was camping in the Conwy Valley with her Scout group.
“It’s great but not easy, a bit like trying to paddle a canoe but harder,” said the 10-year-old.
For Carol and Adam Hustwitt from Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, the event had plenty to see. “We are thinking of buying a boat, which is why we are here, but it’s a real family event as well, so much to see and do,” said Mrs Hustwitt, as her son Harrie, five, tried it the climbing wall.
Other boats were on show from
Fairline Wales, Hanse, Jeanneau, Beneteaeu, Robalo, Chapparal, Quicksilver and Bayliner, plus over 100 used boats.
Plus there were luxury cars from Rolls Royce, Bentley and McLaren and even a helicopter.
The manager of Conwy Marina was delighted to be playing host to the largest event that the stunning waterside venue has ever staged.
Jon Roberts believes the All Wales Boat Show helps underline the marina’s position on the UK’s marine leisure industry map.
Jon, who is area manager for Quay Marinas the company that runs both Conwy and Deganwy Marinas, said: “The 2014 All Wales Boat show has grown into a huge event.
“Without doubt it is by far the biggest show of its type we’ve ever hosted at Conwy Marina. It’s on a completely different scale to anything we have had here in the past.
“There were more than 100 exhibitors showing off a huge variety of goods and services and we’re expecting people to come flocking here from across a wide area. Down at the Harbour we had the first year Boat Jumble, a great gateway to the Show and something that we can build on.
“We had people coming from north and mid Wales, the north west of England and the Midlands plus those who usually only go to the big boat shows in the south of England like London and Southampton. It really underlined Conwy Marina’s place on the UK map.
On shore-side at the show exhibitors included the marine leisure industry and related clothing and food businesses, jet-ski clubs, the Welsh Yachting Association and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).