Major growth on the show front

Posted on Written by Jim Flannery
The 238-slip Flamenco Marina will serve as the venue for the debut of the Panama International Boat Show in June.

The 238-slip Flamenco Marina will serve as the venue for the debut of the Panama International Boat Show in June.

Show Management, organizers of the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, announced two important initiatives during the 2014 show in February.

Superyacht Miami 2015 will expand the brokerage show next year to Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina, where yachts larger than 150 feet will be exhibited, and the first Panama International Boat Show will be held June 20-22 this year at Flamenco Marina on Flamenco Island in Panama.

The Island Gardens marina, under construction as part of a billion-dollar luxury resort on Watson Island between Miami and Miami Beach, will accommodate 35 to 75 yachts from 80 to 480 feet, Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III said at a press conference during the brokerage show.

“Island Gardens is a world-class development,” says Zimbalist. “When it’s completed as planned it will have one of the only marinas in North America designed specifically for superyachts.”

The 6.5-acre Island Gardens project will include the marina, two hotels — a five-star luxury hotel and a four-star “lifestyle” hotel — a public access promenade, at least seven restaurants, perhaps a fish market, time shares and lavish landscaping, says Bahar Bayraktar, communications director for the Flagstone Property Group, a company owned by her father, Mehmet, who is developing the property.

A fleet of water taxis operating from the marina will offer Island Gardens guests and visitors transportation to major destinations on Biscayne Bay and access to South Beach, Fisher Island and other prestigious waterfront locations.

Bayraktar says the project should be completed by 2016. If the marina is not finished by February, it will be far enough along to allow a “modified rollout” of the superyacht event, perhaps on floating docks, Zimbalist says. Watson is an 86-acre island accessible by car via the MacArthur Causeway. Show Management plans to provide complimentary transportation for show visitors between Island Gardens and the brokerage show’s main location on Indian Creek along Collins Avenue.

Show Management co-owns, organizes and produces the show in association with the Florida Yacht Brokers Association, which co-owns and sponsors it.

The Panama show is a response to opportunities created by a strong boating and fishing culture in Central and South America, where economies are growing, along with demand for boats 20 to 70 feet, Zimbalist says. Dealers are few and far between in the region, and much of that demand is going unmet.

“We were looking for a place to do a show specializing in these kinds of boats,” he says. “We think there’s a big market that will develop in the region.”

Show organizers plan to cater to buyers from Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and other countries in this region. Zimbalist says.

Panama makes sense as a venue, Zimbalist says. The 238-slip Flamenco Marina, on Flamenco Island at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, is a flourishing tourist attraction. It has nine on-site restaurants overlooking the canal; two breakwaters; a drystack that will be completed in time for the boat show; 24-hour security and other amenities.

Moreover, Panama is politically stable, it uses the U.S. dollar as currency, has a modern infrastructure and is a “safe haven” for people of high net worth in the region who come to Panama to invest, Zimbalist says. Panama’s Ministry of Tourism and Maritime Administration are enthusiastic supporters of the project, he says.

Zimbalist says the Panamanian government’s tax policies are conducive to producing the show, and Show Management — producer of the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Palm Beach International Boat Show, the St. Petersburg Power and Sailboat Show and the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota — will provide logistics to ship boats and other product from southeast U.S. ports to Panama.

Flamenco Marina president Miguel Lopez-Pinero says he is expanding the marina to accommodate the show. The marina can dock boats from 40 to 110 feet.

“It will start small,” Zimbalist says. “It’s not going to be a mega-show the first year.”

He says he is aiming for 50 boats and 50 exhibitor booths to start.

Building on the optimism of starting a show in Panama and a superyacht show-within-a-show in Miami Beach, Zimbalist says the 2014 Yacht & Brokerage Show was the “biggest ever,” surpassing its high-water mark in 2008. The number of boats at the show was up 9 percent, he says.

He says the number of boats smaller than 50 feet grew by 42 percent.

“We’re thrilled to see the smaller boats coming back to the show,” he says.

Total exhibits were up 4 percent, from 168 to 174, and powerboats grew from 465 to 507.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.

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