Organizers expect the strongest Lauderdale show since 2007, with lots of new attractions
The 54th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is on a mission to outperform itself. The Oct. 31-Nov. 4 event continues to add to offerings spread over six locations with more than 3 million square feet of space.
One of this year’s new attractions is the 228-foot exhibition megayacht SeaFair, which will serve food and drinks in an upscale setting on the top decks and feature art galleries, jewelry and design for yacht and home on the lower two decks, says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, which owns FLIBS producer Show Management. (AIM also is the parent company of Soundings Trade Only.)
It’s a place for those who want to take a break from boats to do some shopping, he says. The restaurant’s upper level also will provide incredible views of the show, according to Show Management senior vice president and chief operating officer Andrew Doole.
Another major development this year is the reopening of the Sailfish Pavilion in a new area at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. “We offered the Sailfish Pavilion pre-2009, but with the financial crisis it had gone away. We’re happy to announce that it’s back and bigger than ever,” Zimbalist says.
The 90,000-plus square feet of outdoor tented space features boats in the 15- to 40-foot range, as well as accessories. Kristina Hebert, president of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the show, says she is particularly excited about the Sailfish Pavilion’s expansion and redesign. “The outdoor area has sold out,” she says. “It includes a greater number of booths, displays and boats.”
The sellout “is a very strong indicator that the small to midrange boat market is once again growing,” she says. Interest in this outdoor area also has increased because the show dates are in early November, “which usually brings great weather,” she says. “This is not to suggest that the indoor displays at the convention center have diminished — just the opposite. Floor space there, if any is still available, is at a premium.”
Zimbalist says a major redesign of the show’s entrance will feature a high roof and create a “very warm, welcoming” presence. “There will be entertainment in that area and a lot more decoration and places to sit if you’re waiting for somebody,” he says.
MIASF will once again operate the AquaLounge, which is open to the public as a place to rest and use the facilities, Hebert says. The lounge will offer lunch each day to MIASF members. Wi-Fi and conference areas are available for members to schedule meetings. The AquaLounge also will host daily meetings with groups interested in learning more about the industry and ways to increase business in South Florida.
Strong contingents from Italy and Taiwan will bolster the always impressive international presence at the show.
A forum for ideas
The association meeting, also hosted in the AquaLounge, consists of marine trades associations at the local, state, national and international levels with a focus on professionalism, ethics, best management practices, advocacy and overall industry performance. “It serves as a platform to share information and the progress of each association’s work throughout the year,” Hebert says, adding that similar meetings also take place in Monaco and Miami.
The show continues to grow. (Exhibitor numbers weren’t available in early September.) In addition to the Sailfish Pavilion, the show continues its northward expansion at the Las Olas Marina. The show has added 20 slips for boats between 70 and 100 feet — “pretty significant,” Doole says. The total value of boats exhibited at last year’s show exceeded $3 billion.
“The other thing I’m excited about is that the Show Management website will be available in English and Spanish, which will be a first for us,” Zimbalist says. A fireworks display scheduled for Thursday evening at 7 o’clock will be “bigger and better than ever,” he says.
Other exhibits include a personal submarine, a flying car, an exotic auto display, and fishing and boating seminars and workshops for adults and children. Also new this year will be Odessa II, a 242-foot superyacht from German builder Nobiskrug. As of early September, it was to be the largest yacht at the show, though Doole says that could change.
One of the draws for FLIBS is the opportunity to be among the first to see new-model debuts. This year there is a better mix of cruisers, Zimbalist says. “Cruisers have been the hardest-hit category of any type of boat over the last 10 years, and we’re starting to see not only more of those boats sold, but we’re seeing more coming into the show. That is encouraging because a big percentage of our audience is interested in that size boat.”
Constantinos Constantinou, president and CEO at Forward Ventures GP LLC, is looking forward to showcasing Greenline Yachts for the first time at FLIBS as part of the Slovenian company’s push for North American market expansion. The hybrid-yacht builder will bring the Greenline 40, which debuts at at the show, and possibly the 33. “With [the twin-engine 40], we could be covering the clientele interested in using the boats on the Intracoastal Waterway but also the people interested in using it offshore,” Constantinou says.
Jim Lane, president of Chaparral and Robalo, says his company will introduce four new models, including the Chaparral 307 SSX, which follows the award-winning 327 SSX. “We’re very proud of this boat,” Lane says. “We showed it to our dealers, and we’re looking forward to showcasing it at FLIBS.”
Chaparral also will bring the new 21-foot H2O Sport, a larger addition to the H2O line that had come in 18- and 19-foot versions. Robalo will showcase a brand new series called Cayman with the 206 Cayman and the R222. “Fort Lauderdale is a great venue in the fall to launch new product,” Chaparral and Robalo vice president Ann Baldree says. “It will be our first public showing of these models outside of our dealer conference.”
Grand Banks is doubling its footprint, says brand and marketing director David Hensel, making it the largest display the brand has featured in its eight-year history with the show. The company plans to show six or seven models, including the 50 Eastbay SX, the first Grand Banks model to feature Volvo Penta’s IPS pod drives. “That’s a big new boat for us,” Hensel says. “It represents a considerable evolution in the Eastbay series we launched 20 years ago. We feel like we’ve got good models, and this show provides a great platform to get [them] out there in front of potential buyers.”
Hurricane Sandy didn’t stop the 2012 show, but its legacy is affecting the scheduling. Starting in 2015, the dates will be pushed back a week in the hope of avoiding the tropical storms the area is prone to in the fall. “The weather charts show that even though it’s just a week later, it considerably reduces the chances of the torrential rain and high winds,” Zimbalist says. “We don’t get them often in the third week, as we did last year, but sometimes it does happen. That’s the major thing we can control is moving the dates a week later.”
The show will start on the first Thursday in November instead of the last Thursday in October. Last year, Sandy caused problems for exhibitors and visitors. Improved communication with exhibitors is key, Hebert says. If necessary, she says, the show will use social media, daily news outlets, Twitter and possibly radio channels to get critical information out. “Sandy proved to be a lot more difficult to deal with than Hurricane Wilma [in 2005] because Wilma came before the show and Sandy came during. It was a completely different animal, even though the storm itself wasn’t nearly as damaging,” Hebert says.
MIASF and Show Management have formalized some procedures to give 24-hour notice of a closure for any rain event and will meet with a Severe Weather Action Team to discuss risks during the show.
‘Jewel box’ display
Also in response to Sandy, at least in part, Sea Ray has created a “jewel box effect” with a new exhibit developed with Skyline Tent Co. The glass-walled tent will be air-conditioned, providing an in-water display that is enclosed, says Matt Guilford, Brunswick Boat Group’s marketing vice president.
Among other models, Sea Ray will feature its 510 Flybridge and the 350 SLX, the brand’s largest dayboat. “Sea Ray is a brand with strength and purpose and leadership, and we want to communicate that with all of our audience through all the channels available to us,” Guilford says. “The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is a great opportunity to demonstrate that. It’s great to have like-minded partners [in MIASF and Show Management] to provide that opportunity.”
Mindful that Sandy last year blew out a tent wall, Show Management will have backup material on hand this year. “We had to call and get the replacement fabric flown in, but this year we will have that available, Doole says. “We have extra equipment available for both land and water, with canvas for tents, pilings for docks, etc.
“We’re excited about this year’s show,” he continues. “There is a lot of new product and a lot of premieres that take place at this show. A lot of manufacturers are getting back in or increasing their displays. We’ve got a lot of new exhibitors coming back and new exhibitors this year, especially in smaller boats. There’s a very vibrant feel to it. We had a good show at Palm Beach and Miami and saw an increase in traffic. This is going to be our strongest Fort Lauderdale since probably 2007, so we’re happy and proud of that fact.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.