Fort Lauderdale show tries ‘theme park’ model

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The term "theme park" might not spring to mind when thinking about the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, but that’s a model producers are trying to emulate in efforts to make the mammoth show more accessible: They’re creating "villages" themed around certain types of boats and lifestyles.

In addition to grouping like products together, the villages will offer entertainment and food to make the show more enjoyable, says Kristina Hebert, president of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the event.

The huge show, with $3 billion in boats and products on display, takes place Oct. 25-29, spread across six locations in Fort Lauderdale — the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Municipal Marina, Fort Lauderdale Hilton Marina, Greater Fort Lauderdale/ Broward County Convention Center and the Sails Marina.

“We have always tried to keep it organized, but it really is massive, so those who come and just want to see superyachts or experience family boating or sportfishing boats, for example, [can] have their own experience,” Hebert says. “That will morph over time [into] almost like a Disney World-type experience, where it is massive, but yet you can go to a village and see what you want to see.”

The approach is just one way organizers say they are trying to elevate the fun quotient.

“The No. 1 reason people participate in all of these is to have fun,” says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Active Interest Media, the company that owns show producer Show Management and numerous publications including Soundings Trade Only.

“Everybody has their own definition of fun,” Zimbalist says. “For some, it’s looking at 23 different kinds of fishfinders. For others, it’s people-watching or seeing big boats, and for others it’s entertainment and music. There are a lot of boat buyers there, and most of the people who buy a boat go to a show to do research and maybe buy one there, but also to have fun. We’re trying to increase the fun quotient.”

Look for more about the show in the October issue of Soundings Trade Only.

— Reagan Haynes


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