Whether it was the good weather, the rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines or the heightened demand for boats — if not all three — attendance at yesterday’s opening of the Palm Beach International Boat Show was better than expected for many exhibitors.
“It seems like it’s a historic high for the number of people here on a Thursday,” Kyle Langbehn, president of retail operations for MarineMax, told Trade Only Today.
The weather was straight out of a Florida tourist guide: clear and sunny, with temperatures hitting a high of 87 degrees.
Show producer Informa Markets had its AllSecure health and safety protocols in place. All in attendance had their temperature taken before being allowed inside the venue, and masks were required. Informa safety ambassadors were positioned inside the entrances to remind showgoers not remove their masks; however, during an afternoon spent walking the docks, compliance with that rule was inconsistent at best.
“It’s a phenomenal opening day,” Frank Ferraro, marketing manager for Nautical Ventures Group, told Trade Only Today. “In all the years I’ve been coming to this show, opening day was always a soft day. Not only is it busier than I’ve seen, but the quality of the [attendees] is high. They are active boaters looking to buy their next boat or toy.”
With builders typically launching more new boats at the Fort Lauderdale and Miami shows during a normal (non-pandemic) year, this year’s opening day in Palm Beach saw a large number of debuts, including the Princess X95 Superfly, which made its global debut, the Vicem 50, the retro Wheeler 38, and the X Shore Eelex 8000, a Swedish-built electric boat that is being introduced to the U.S. market.
MarineMax launched several models, including the Aquila 70 power catamaran and Galeon GTO 325, 400 Fly and 410 HTC.
Horizon already had previewed its new FD75 to a select group of owners but still pulled out all the stops for its debut at the show yesterday.
“We do the open house, and those are good — we invite people we know,” Roger Sowerbutts, director of Horizon USA, told Trade Only Today. “[But] this show is an introduction to new buyers, a new gene pool. We’ve learned a lot about how to do business differently over the past year. We’ve just delivered seven new boats that the owners had never seen.”
Marine engine and equipment manufacturers also introduced new product. Volvo Penta offered a virtual reality simulator of its new Assisted Docking in two locations, which allowed attendees to experience docking with a system that automatically compensates for wind and current.
“We are making it completely stress-free,” said Volvo Penta vice president of sales Jens Bering, who was trying the VR simulator for the first time.
Overall, opening day was deemed a huge accomplishment after last year’s event was canceled.
“The opening day of the boat show was a resounding success for our visitors, exhibitors and the city of West Palm Beach,” said Andrew Doole, president of U.S. boat shows at Informa Markets. “For exhibitors in particular, we are thrilled to be able to deliver the opportunity to showcase their products in-person again, especially given the unprecedented demand for boats and yachts that has built up over the past year.”