The 58th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show — a spectacle that draws international crowds in droves — will take place Nov. 1-5 at seven locations around the city.
The show, one of the world’s largest, will cover more than 3 million square feet of space. Visitors have access to an estimated $4 billion worth of products ranging from superyachts, sportfishing boats and center consoles to kayaks, jet skis, accessories and services.
The show will be held at the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach and Yachting Center, the Hall of Fame Marina, the Las Olas Municipal Marina, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Sails Marina, Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Marina and the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.
“We’re the marine hub of the world, literally,” says Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the trade association that owns the show. “That means everything from recreational boating, refit, repair, sales, also ties into our environment down here. And then we’re the jump-off to the Caribbean. We’re geographically superior to anywhere else.”
A 2016 study showed that the prior year’s show contributed $857 million to the Florida economy — giving it a larger economic impact than the Super Bowl, Purcell says.
It will be the first Fort Lauderdale show since the company that produces it, Show Management, was acquired by London-based Informa. Organizers say the parent company has invested in making the show better.
The “enormous” investment Informa has made will be evident to visitors, but it also will pay for improvements behind the scenes, says Andrew Doole, senior vice president and COO of Show Management. A mile of new composite docks will improve the show’s appearance, and organizers are retrofitting composite on top of current docks.
“We have brand new, state-of-the-art electrical equipment for all the tents,” Doole says. “That’s a huge investment. We have new tops for the tents and new wayfinding systems.”
Large 8-foot and 12-foot-tall totems will help people figure out where they are and how to get where they’re going, Doole says. “It’s a 40-acre property, so it’s easy to get lost,” he says. “The totems are huge, they’ll be on the app, they’ll be on the program, so it’ll be a huge benefit in guiding attendees and exhibitors through the show so they can find things with ease.”
Another new feature designed to improve the exhibitor experience is moving the credentials office to the upstairs of the Grandview hotel. “It’s expanded the area to cut down on lines so exhibitors can more easily get their credentials,” Doole says. “We’ve changed all the signage on that so it will be more like arriving at an international airport.” The previous tent location for credentials was “just too crowded,” Doole says.
Additionally, terrorist attacks abroad have led organizers to beef up security. “We’ll have new security systems in place, new metal detectors and we’re experimenting with some new equipment,” Doole says. “We have a new security adviser working with us, so it’s the safest show you can go to — particularly in light of Barcelona.” In August a van plowed through crowds in a popular tourist destination in that city.
‘Taste of Fort Lauderdale’
The 100,000 visitors expected will be able to enjoy what organizers call “A Taste of Fort Lauderdale,” with local restaurants supplying food. Coconuts will supply oysters, stone crabs and beer on one of the cocktail barges and there will be “a definite upgrade over where the concessions are,” Doole says.
Bahia Mar’s restaurant division is going to take part, with the hotel’s deli also providing food. “We’re looking for more restaurants between now and next year so that it’s really a taste of the local area instead of typical fair food,” Doole says.
German yacht builder Abeking & Rasmussen was scheduled to bring a nearly 238-foot custom motoryacht, Cloudbreak. The interior of the yacht built in 2016 was designed by Christian Liaigre. Her exterior styling is by Espen Oeino.
The 181-foot custom motoryacht Turquoise, built in 2011 by Proteksan Turquoise and refit by her new owner in 2014, was also expected to be on display at the event. Heesen Yachts was also scheduled to bring a 180-foot yacht, Doole says.
“There are also a lot of new launches that are going to take place,” Doole says. “The convention center is sold out; the space outside is sold out. We’ve seen positive trends from the 18- to 20-foot boats through the big boats. It’s been pretty consistent demand across the board. It’s good.”
The show is known for bringing new-model debuts, which makes it important for several builders. “We get the opportunity to showcase what we’ve been working on,” says Chris Landry, communications director at Viking. “The 93 Motor Yacht and the 44 Open will both make their world premieres at FLIBS.
“These are quality buyers who often come ready to buy,” Landry says. “But the strength of our display and the boats themselves often lead to customers pulling the trigger. We take great pride in presenting new yachts every year, and FLIBS is an ideal location and event to do so. Some builders may come out with a great new model one year and then not so great the next year. We build great new boats every single year.
“Part of the reason this show is critical for Viking Yachts is the timing,” Landry says. “In the build cycle, if someone wants a Viking and they order it at the Fort Lauderdale show, they can have it by the following summer. We always have very strong shows in Fort Lauderdale. It continues to grow and get stronger each year. If you have a good display in Lauderdale, people are going to respond.”
The 93 Motor Yacht is the largest yacht Viking has ever built. “We want to take every Viking to the next level — to continue building a better boat every day,” says president and CEO Pat Healey. “This commitment moves forward with the 93 MY, the largest vessel we ever built.”
Regulator will be displaying its 41-footer this year with the SeaKeeper gyro. “The 41 delivers the same incredible Regulator ride in a head sea, and now with the addition of SeaKeeper will be even more comfortable while drift fishing or trolling,” says Regulator president Joan Maxwell. “In addition to the 41 we will be exhibiting the 25, 28, 31 introduced at FLIBS 2016, and the 34. We’d love to bring in the Regulator 23, and if there was more in-water space available in our current water location, we would.”
The Fort Lauderdale show is extremely important to Regulator and the overall industry in Florida because of the national and international crowds the event draws, Maxwell says.
“As you walk around the show you’ll find manufacturers and their dealers from Florida, the Northeast, Gulf Coast, some from the West Coast and even from South America and the Caribbean,” Maxwell says. “Why are these dealers there? Very simply because their current and prospective customers come to this show. Many of the latest trends, newest cool styles and technology can be seen at this show. It is a ‘must’ show to exhibit in.”
A big-boat market
The venue also draws locals, which is important for builders such as Scout Boats, as the larger boats tend to be popular in the region, says Scout national and international sales manager Alan Lang.
Scout, which also would love additional show space, will display eight boats outside and eight to 10 boats inside — including the debut of a new 355 LXF, a new 251 XSF with a new hull and a new 235 Center Console, Lang says.
The 355 is built built to accommodate the SeaKeeper; the company achieved that by making the berth belowdecks about a foot wider, redesigning the console as well as the leaning post, Lang says, adding, “It also has nicer seating, similar to a 38.”
The show is crucial because of its international draw, but also because people shopping for Scouts as tenders, as well as people shopping for Scouts as a primary boat, all attend. “Pretty much everyone is there,” Lang says.
It’s going to be a big show for Prestige and Jeanneau, according to Jeanneau America president Nick Harvey. “The big news for us in Florida is we’re moving the Prestige booth to Dock E with the big boys, so we are going to be neighbors to Monte Carlo Yachts, Princess, Azimut and the Ferretti Group,” Harvey says. “So we’re very excited about that.”
Prestige will bring its full line, including the world debut of the Prestige 520, a flybridge boat that fits between the 500 and the 560. The Jeanneau brand will stay on Dock H where both brands were located and will bring inboard powerboats from 30 to 46 feet and seven outboard boats.
“From a powerboat standpoint we expect to get about a quarter of our yearly retail sales done at FLIBS,” Harvey says. “I can’t reveal numbers exactly, but it’s a good indicator. If I have a quarter of my retail sales done, I’m a happy buddy. The market is really good right now, as far as Prestige is concerned, with very much in place with our dealer network — so we need to make sure we can capture every opportunity.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.