FORT LAUDERDALE — Show Management’s new plans, a new international trade zone in Fort Lauderdale and the importance of conservation were covered today at the opening breakfast at the 58th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
The 2017 show is the first to be produced by new show manager Informa, which purchased the rights from Soundings Trade Only parent company Active Interest Media. The show is still owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
“We’re completely committed to the ongoing success of this show, this town and this industry,” said Charlie McCurdy, president and CEO of Informa’s Global Exhibitions division. “The Fort Lauderdale show is an exceptional event. It’s a big deal and it’s really important, but it’s also familiar.”
Looking at some of the numbers, the 2017 version of the show has 89 yachts on display measuring more than 100 feet, 46 more than 150 feet and six that top 200 feet. The honor of the largest boat at the event goes to the 257-foot TV, which is docked at Pier 66.
One of the biggest changes for this year’s show is the schedule. In the past the show had run from Thursday through Monday, but this year it is being held from Wednesday through Sunday, based on exhibitor and customer feedback.
Management said 1,200 exhibitors from more than 35 counties will have products on display. McCurdy said Informa invested about $7 million in the show’s physical presentation and infrastructure.
Among the improvements made to the facilities this year are 7 miles of floating portable docks, and the docks are made from composite materials. Additionally, the tents have been upgraded with composite floor materials that allow for improved drainage in the event of a storm.
Improved signage and colored zones are intended to make it easier to get around the show and for customers to more easily find what they are seeking. Security has also been enhanced with an increased number of cameras, drones and a stronger police presence.
McCurdy said investments also have been made with improved Wi-Fi coverage, online capabilities that are being piloted today and an app dedicated to the show.
“They’re taking an already great product and taking it to the next level,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor John “Jack” Seiler said. “This boat show has done an amazing job of changing the way we look at the marine industry.”
One of the announcements considered crucial to the future of the show is the commitment that Tate Capital, owners of the Bahia Mar, made to the event in 2014.
Because Informa, which is based in the U.K., also owns the Monaco Yacht Show, the management group is well aware of the importance of expanding the show’s appeal to international customers. It’s estimated that 54 percent of the show visitors come from outside Florida and more than 1,000 private jets are expected at local airports.
Phil Purcell, executive director of MIASF, announced the creation of Foreign Trade Zone 241, which allows international manufacturers to import yachts without paying the 1.5 percent duty or tariff to bring their vessels into this country.
“In the biggest market in the world we were eliminating the biggest buyer,” said Purcell. He said the free-trade zone can be duplicated so more can be established throughout the country.
Local success story Guy Harvey, who is now known worldwide for his nautically related art, got his start at FLIBS 32 years ago with a small booth in the fishing tent. Today he uses his success to promote ocean research and conservation.
The Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University works with Florida-based colleges on research, conservation and education. The organization also works with Sea World, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Tag Heuer to raise awareness for ocean conservation.
“We all realize how important the sea is to the well-being of this industry,” said Harvey. “Without conservation, all of this is going to go away.”
As of this morning, Informa estimated that ticket sales for the show are up by 5 or 6 percent. It has been estimated that the 2016 show had an economic impact of $857 million, which Seiler said is the equivalent of two Super Bowls.
“It’s rare in a professional career that you get to take on a really good product in a really good business and make improvements you can bring to bear,” Informa’s McCurdy said. “Our ability to be right at the center of that and be part of it is really extraordinary.”