Attendance at the 55th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which was greeted with five days of beautiful weather, was up 6 percent from last year and was the highest since 2006.
The show brought more than 1,000 exhibitors displaying nearly 1,500 boats of all sizes, marine electronics, accessories and water toys of all kinds across more than 3 million square feet of exhibit space covering seven locations. With the addition of Pier 66 Marina as a new location, the show's footprint was bigger than ever before.
Overall attendance was up 6 percent, compared with 2013, and organizers said it was the highest it has been since 2006. The heaviest attendance this year was on opening day, Thursday, Oct. 30, and on Saturday, Nov. 1. The number of in-water boats was up more than 5 percent and was the largest display since 2008. Exhibitor participation was up 3 percent, compared to the 2013 show.
"This year's show was a clear indication that the American yachting market has turned and both buyers and sellers are confident and back out on the docks," Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, CEO of Show Management, the company that manages and produces the show, said in a statement. Show Management and Soundings Trade Only are both owned by Active Interest Media. "We've heard of many new and brokerage sales and plenty of new and return charter activity. The overall sentiment is that this was a very successful year for the show."
The Fort Lauderdale show, which is owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, attracts an international audience of marine enthusiasts to experience the single best showcase of marine products and accessories in the world.
"We have at least three solid deals that emerged from the show, and a handful of other potentials. Mother Nature cooperated as well, making the entire boat show an even more pleasurable experience for our clients," said Bob Saxon, president of International Yacht Collection, which had a display at the Bahia Mar Marina show location. "Charter was very active, and as we all know, chartering often represents the entry portal into buying or building a yacht."
Families who were not shopping for boats enjoyed water sport demonstrations at the all new AquaZone by Nautical Ventures, and fishing and boating seminars for adults and children of all ages by the International Game Fish Association and the nonprofit Hook the Future. The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center show location saw interest from buyers of boats in the under-50-foot category.
"The atmosphere was very upbeat with both the vendors and consumers," said Boatsetter CEO Andy Sturner, whose company was exhibiting at the show for the first time.
During the show's international news conference on opening day, findings from a recent economic impact study by Thomas J. Murray & Associates were released, revealing a consistent turnaround in the South Florida tri-county region of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach and Florida's marine industry statewide over four years spanning the fiscal years 2010 through 2014.
The overall increase in marine-related sales in Broward County was 21.9 percent, it was 30.5 percent in Miami-Dade County, and it was 101.2 percent in Palm Beach County during the period studied. Taken as a region, the tri-county marine industry's sales grew an estimated 36.3 percent between 2010 and 2014. Statewide, gross marine sales grew 31.3 percent.
During the most recently completed fiscal year, 2014, Broward County accounted for nearly $1.5 billion in sales for this sector, Dade County contributed $332,397,708 and Palm Beach County reported $586,317,556.
Combined as a region, the tri-county area represented 51 percent ($2.383 billion) of Florida's gross marine sales during the 2014 fiscal year. For fiscal 2014, gross retail sales of boat and motor products equaled $4.675 billion statewide, an increase of 31.3 percent since 2010.