A total makeover on Collins Avenue

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes
Water taxis will help visitors and exhibitors avoid traffic.

Water taxis will help visitors and exhibitors avoid traffic.

Yachts Miami Beach is coming to Collins Avenue Feb. 16-20 with a totally refreshed layout, several entrances (in conjunction with a first-time admission fee of $20) and a transportation upgrade designed to get attendees not only to and from the show, but also around the exhibit areas.

Several yachts and superyachts will make their U.S. and world debuts at Yachts Miami Beach, known for its international and national appeal, as it makes its 29th annual appearance along a mile-long strip of the Indian Creek Waterway. The show features more than $1 billion in new and brokerage yachts and accessories and covers more than 1.2 million square feet of space.

Show Management and the International Yacht Brokers Association, co-owners of the show, engaged the prominent design company EDSA to reimagine the event. EDSA is renowned for creating environments for destinations ranging from Atlantis in the Bahamas to the John F. Kennedy Center and Disney’s signature resorts.

“I can’t wait to see it come to fruition,” says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, president of Show Management and executive chairman of Active Interest Media, the company that owns both Show Management and Soundings Trade Only. “We took this as an opportunity to reinvent Yachts Miami Beach.”

An on-water experience

Organizers had some major objectives in rethinking the entire layout — all with the goal of making the show a better experience, Zimbalist says.

One way they are accomplishing that is by getting the bulk of the foot traffic off Collins Avenue and onto the docks. Now there will be an internal walkway that extends over the water nearly the full length of the show. “We were trying to create a more beautiful, peaceful, marine-oriented experience, as opposed to exposure to some of the hustle and bustle that takes place on Collins Avenue,” says Zimbalist.

Instead of the docks forming spokes from Collins Avenue, there will now be connected docks on the water so visitors can navigate the show without having to use the sidewalk, says Show Management marketing vice president Brett Keating.

Another objective was to create a better consumer experience by providing food, beverages, entertainment and information stands within the show at each of the five new gates — which will be located up and down the length of the show — so not only can visitors get the information they need after entering, they can also sit and relax with something to eat and drink out on the water, Zimbalist says.

In addition, signage will be more prominent and will have a new aesthetic. “We’re doing a lot in the look and feel of the show in terms of graphics and signage and the overall beauty of the show,” says Zimbalist.

Transportation upgrades will make it much easier to navigate the Yachts Miami Beach show this year.

Transportation upgrades will make it much easier to navigate the Yachts Miami Beach show this year.

Separating new and brokerage

Brokerage and new boats will be separated for the first time, with brokerage boats at the north end of the show and new boats to the south. Most exhibitors have been happy with that decision because it helps guide the visitors, Keating says.

“If I put myself in the eyes of a customer, that change is awesome,” says Chuck Cashman, chief revenue officer at MarineMax. “Knowing that all the new-boat brands are going to be south, and all the brokerage boats will be to the north will be easier. Customers know what they’re looking for. Now if they’re looking for brokerage, they go in and make a right; if they’re looking for new, they go in and make a left.”

Show Management expects to be ahead of schedule in its replacement of floating dock systems with new encapsulated docks, Keating says. The new, environmentally friendly docks will be fully completed by 2018.

“The other environmental initiative we are doing is to work with VolunteerCleanup.org to sponsor the pocket ashtrays to all smokers,” says Keating. “Cigarette butts are made of plastic and are not biodegradable. Storm drains lead straight to waterways, so we want to keep our waters clean.”

New-boat introductions are always crucial to the show’s success. For the first time, organizers will charge an admission fee.

New-boat introductions are always crucial to the show’s success. For the first time, organizers will charge an admission fee.

An admission fee

The decision to charge admission was in part a result of the Miami International Boat Show — which runs concurrently with Yachts Miami Beach, but is separately owned and operated — and its move to Virginia Key last year from the nearby Miami Beach Convention Center. (There has been a major marketing push to advertise the changes and eliminate confusion about where Yachts Miami Beach is located and where the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s show is taking place, Zimbalist says.)

“It was open with no charge before, and that was largely due to the history of the shows being right next to each other — and frankly some confusion among attendees whether it was one show or two shows,” Zimbalist says. “With their move to Virginia Key, we felt it was time to make the move to charging admission. It will make the crowds more qualified and helps fund a more robust marketing program. Those people [who were interested at looking at the yachts] will still be able to see a lot of the show from boats on the Intracoastal Waterway or from the street.”

“From a show perspective, I have been really looking forward to this because now we can actually measure our attendance,” Keating says. “In the past we’ve been trying to figure it out based on how many came through the concessions, the cocktail barges, and by talking to various exhibitors. We’ll be able to use this information for better marketing and direct consumer segmentation.”

The gate fees will also help exhibitors differentiate between boat buyers and those who are simply curious about the yachts. “At the end of the day you want people who are serious, who are there to consider a boat — whether it’s today or a year from today,” says Cashman. “We’re fine with that at MarineMax. Just give me people who are legitimately interested in boats, not people who happen to be staying across the street and say, ‘These look nice.’ You don’t want to say they can’t go on the boats, and it’s hard. I think we’ll have fewer people inside the fence, but more qualified people inside the fence.”

Rarely do show producers take a clean piece of paper and just start over in terms of building and planning a show, Cashman adds, so he appreciates the effort that organizers have made. “And they worked with a great firm to do it. I don’t want to say it was improper before, but it was organic growth. They’ve gone with a fresh slate, and I’m pretty excited to see what it’s going to look like. People who can spend a couple of million on a boat, they want an elegant experience.”

Water taxis, shuttles

Now that the show is ticketed, five new entrances along Collins Avenue will also be accessible from the water because Yachts Miami Beach will add water-taxi service from parking lots, as well as from the north end of the show to the south end.

The southern water-taxi pickup point will be from the COMO Metropolitan Hotel (which used to be the Traymore) at 24th Street and Collins Avenue, where there is ample public parking, Keating says. Visitors can get a free water taxi from that point and will buy tickets when they arrive at the southern portion of the show.

The northern water-taxi pickup point will be at 67th Street and Collins Avenue at the Rowing Club, where there is also a large parking lot. A 10-minute ride will take visitors to the northern side of the show, where there is also a ticketed entrance. It will also offer water-taxi service from the south side of the show to the north side.

“A lot of attention and resources have been poured into making the show easier to get to,” says Zimbalist. “That includes water taxis going up and down the length of the show, shuttles going from South Beach to water-taxi stops, and improved valet and Uber and taxi access, as well as more parking — and a greatly increased bus schedule to and from the Virginia Key show.”

Navico America COO Louis Chemi says that although the company displays at the Miami International Boat Show, like many companies, it has staff running back and forth to Yachts Miami Beach because the company sells to all parts of the market.

“We basically are only B2B, if you will; we don’t sell directly to consumers, only to trade,” Chemi says. “We could be going to help support a boat dealer or builder, or going to visit a boatbuilder who has asked us to meet with a VIP customer to talk them through a system.”

Having the increase in shuttles will make for easier transportation between the shows, he says.

Yachts Miami Beach is known for showcasing luxurious superyachts.

Yachts Miami Beach is known for showcasing luxurious superyachts.

Island Gardens

For the second year, Yachts Miami Beach will feature a display of superyachts at Island Gardens Deep Harbour on Watson Island, located on I-395/MacArthur Causeway. The invitation-only “show within a show,” known as Super Yacht Miami, will feature some of the boat show’s largest superyachts.

Guests can make appointments for yacht tours by contacting Island Gardens exhibitors or through Show Management. More than 20 superyachts will be on display. The site can accommodate yachts as large as 500 feet.

“We expect some growth in the number of boats there,” Zimbalist says. “These are largely brokerage boats that are in charter, so exact entries are usually settled in the last two to three weeks.”

So far, the largest vessels scheduled to be on display there are the 230-foot Lurssen megayacht Martha Ann, being exhibited by IYC, and a 213-foot Codecasa called Double Down. Exhibitors at that venue include Burgess Yachts, IYC, Merle Wood and Associates and Northrop Johnson.

The venue will have more entertainment and vendors that are “very targeted toward the upper, superyacht segment,” Keating says. “We do provide transportation between Collins and Island Gardens, but it is at the request of exhibitors because it is somewhat of a private venue.”

A VIP experience

Along Collins Avenue there also will be several large yachts ranging up to 120 feet, as well as a brand new VIP venue on a four-deck, air-conditioned yacht called the Grand Floridian. “We’re expecting 300 people per day just for the first three days,” says Keating. He anticipates that tickets will be sold out before the show opens.

Tickets to the yacht, which cost $125 a person per day, provide access to the boat, private bathrooms on board, upscale dining all day — including breakfast, lunch and evening tapas — open bar, entertainment and an “experience deck,” Keating says. There will be access to spa groups, skin treatments, massages, free samples, tastings of drinks. “It’s going to be a fun deck,” Keating says. The yacht will be at the center of the show and will be the site of a Friday morning press conference.

Yachts Miami Beach is renowned for its after-hours VIP parties. The venue takes on a glittery look, as many yachts remain lit up at night for parties. Closing is an hour earlier (at 6 p.m.) to give exhibitors a chance to hold their events and still get to dinner at a reasonable hour, Keating says.

Sea Ray will be using a new digital registration app, developed in house, that’s pre-populated with existing customers and prospects to help reduce bottlenecks and deliver guests to salespeople in a smooth and expedited fashion, says Scott Ward, senior vice president and general manager of the sport yacht and yacht category. At the same time, the company will transfer information about the visit to the dealerships’ lead management system.

“In addition, we will be hosting two VIP sales events,” Ward says. “These events will allow customers and prospects to enjoy a look into the Sea Ray lifestyle and talk with their dealership and the Sea Ray team about our boats, our company and the after-sales experience.”

New model introductions

Yachts on display will include the Italian-built 43-foot Evo, being brought by G Marine; a 131-foot Princess; the Ferretti 450; the 120-foot Taiwan-built Horizon; and the 44-foot Overblue Catamaran, says Keating. Also on display will be five boats from Schaefer Yachts, a Brazilian builder that made its entry into the U.S. market with two boats at the Fort Lauderdale show and is stepping up its presence at Yachts Miami Beach.

Canadian Coastal Craft will bring 65-foot and 45-foot yachts, and a renewed Greenline Hybrid Yachts will display four new boats with the Seaway Group of Slovenia. A 56-foot yacht by Turkey-based Sirena Yachts will make its world debut, and its Sirena 64 will make its U.S. debut. Fairline’s Squadron 53 will be making its U.S. debut.

Sea Ray will present its complete lineup of 12 sport yachts, yachts and L-Class, “rounding out the L-Class with the exciting new L550, an express-style yacht to complement the very popular new L550 Fly that debuted at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale show,” Ward says. “Also, we will build on the success of L-Class models and introduce the L550 to complement the launch of the L550 Fly at Fort Lauderdale. The L550 is resin-infused, has digital switching, galley aft and is powered by CAT engines.”

Ocean Alexander’s 120-foot megayacht tri-deck will make its production world premiere, Cashman says. “Officially, they did build one a few years back and sold it, but this is really the world debut of the 120-foot production yacht,” he adds.

MarineMax has sold six 100-foot Ocean Alexanders since the 2015 Fort Lauderdale show — “if you can imagine a 100-foot boat flying off the shelves,” Cashman says. “We’re really excited about getting the 120, and it speaks to that growing market.”

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Momentum that just keeps going

Overall, the boating industry is in a great spot, many say, and the high end is especially booming, bringing an enthusiastic anticipation to both Miami shows this year. “In early December we sold a record number of yachts at our annual Yacht Expo,” says Sea Ray’s Ward. “We see no signs of a slowdown and are expecting another excellent year in 2017. Consumer confidence is high, and recent job growth has been good. There is some chatter around the effect of rising interest rates. However, when considering the terms of marine loans, we don’t expect a small increase over time to be an issue.”

Zimbalist speculates that a confluence of events — new products and accessories, combined with consumer confidence and optimism — is helping to drive new-boat and product sales. The momentum from Fort Lauderdale is expected to carry over into Miami, he says. “The product is out there to entice people, people are confident and they have the money — all those things are encouraging. And the strong dollar has helped for Americans purchasing foreign product.”

Although unit sales still have not returned to their pre-recession heyday, dollars per unit are way up, Zimbalist says. “It’s all of the equipment on there, even the smaller boats are coming with radar and heads and joystick drives, and all kinds of things that are driving price,” he says.

“We had an amazing Fort Lauderdale show,” Cashman agrees. He says the average sale price on more than 100 units was $770,000. “It’s not like that’s one big boat. Boats are getting more expensive, and big boats are getting really expensive. Business is good. The boat business is very good. In our opinion, if you’re not doing well, it’s you. It’s not the economy; it’s not the market. I think a lot of people are doing very well. I don’t think it’s just us.”

Yachts Miami Beach will be the venue to continue building on the positive momentum, particularly around the luxury lifestyle, Keating says. “Miami is truly an international show. People come from all over the world to get the Miami Beach experience. We’ve got to live up to the glitz and glamor. We want exhibitors to get excited about that — that we’re doing everything to keep Yachts Miami Beach fresh and new.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue.

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