Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III said attendance at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was up 5 percent this year from the 2015 show.
The company, which produces the show, does not release exact figures, but it pegged the number of visitors at about 100,000.
This year’s show, which began Nov. 3 and concluded Monday, was the biggest ever — about 3 million square feet at seven sites, Zimbalist said. Although the number of exhibitors — about 1,000 — was down slightly, many bought more space, accounting for the event’s growth in size.
Exhibitors came buttressed by projections of continuing industry growth into 2018. Consumers arrived more confident than they previously had been about their jobs, the economy and the world despite the uncertainty of a presidential election the day after the show ended.
All of the pieces came together to make for a very good show — indeed, an “excellent” one, Zimbalist said.
Except for some rain on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 5), the weather was fall in Florida at its finest and an ongoing investment in innovation across the industry added up to an exciting menu of offerings.
“There was a lot of new product out there,” Zimbalist said, in boat designs, engines, equipment, new navigation gear and technology.
Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the Fort Lauderdale show, described it as “amazing.” He and Zimbalist see it as a kind of melting pot that throws all kinds of people together to the benefit of the community, the boating industry, local business and ocean research.
Purcell said the show’s impact extends beyond the five days it is in town.
“This show funds 360 days a year of economic activity,” he said. “We are the middle-class job creator of this community.”
Its economic impact on South Florida is $857 million, bigger than a Super Bowl, he said.
Boston Whaler displayed three new 2016 models — the Outrage 23, 25 and 28 — at the show.
“This was our most successful show ever, both in units and in dollars,” said Jeff Vaughn, Boston Whaler’s vice president of sales, marketing and customer service.
Sales were especially brisk in boats larger than 35 feet, the 420 and 370 Outrage in particular. “There was a little less activity in the smaller boats,” he said. Most of the sales were to buyers from Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Marquis-Larson Group also posted good results.
“Overall, we are happy with the outcome of this year’s FLIBS,” said Matthew Vetzner, the group’s vice president of marketing. “After an extremely slow start on Thursday, both of our displays — Striper in the convention center and Carver & Marquis Yachts at Bahia Mar — had strong traffic, very interested prospects and sales. Our participating dealer partners at both displays are currently working deals and have many leads to follow up with.”
Vetzner said consumers overall were upbeat, engaged and interested in the boats.
“Brokerage boat sales were strong, as well,” Zimbalist said, but new-boat sales were stronger.” “People were out looking for that new boat to buy.”