In its third year at the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, the 2018 edition of MIBS had good weather, increased attendance and positive feedback from exhibitors. Upgrades to the air-conditioning systems for the indoor displays kept exhibitors and show visitors comfortable and the feeling coming out of the show was enthusiastic.
“We heard from many exhibitors that they had a really strong show,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the owner of the show. “Because the economy is doing so well, and consumer confidence is high, people were there to spend money.”
Joe Curran, chief operating officer at Iconic Marine Group, which owns Fountain Powerboats, said the company sold “more boats at a Miami boat show than Fountain had in 11 years.”
The NMMA reported official attendance at 97,391, a 3-percent increase over 2017. Dammrich said the main reason for the number not being higher was that Sunday and Monday were slightly down, mainly due to rain on the final day of the show. He added that attendance was up significantly on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday matched last year. Visitors came from 35 countries.
In its 77 year, MIBS had 1,100 exhibitors and 1,400 boats on display on land and in the water. New this year, the sailboats joined power on Virginia Key when Strictly Sail moved to the Marine Stadium Park & Basin, creating a one-stop shop for boaters. All told, there was more than $3 billion in product on display.
For visitors, the ability to take boats out on sea trials remains a highlight. With more than 700 vessels on display in the water, boat and engine manufacturers had a variety of boats in the docks ready to head out on Biscayne Bay. For the second-straight year, the boats that drew the biggest crowds were large center- and dual-console models powered by as many as five outboard motors.
“It was a successful 2018 edition of the Miami Boat Show as exhibitors reported some of the best sales they’ve seen in years,” said Larry Berryman, manager of MIBS in a statement. “We are proud to host the greatest boat show in the world right here in Miami, delivering an estimated $854 million into Florida’s economy, and we will continue to enhance the show to provide a world-class experience for our guests, exhibitors and the community.”
The weather brought plenty of sun and temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. After complaints about the air conditioning last year, the NMMA made sure that would not be an issue in 2018. “We spent half a million dollars extra on air conditioning this year,” said Dammrich. “We were serious about fixing that problem.”
The association also showed ability to adapt quickly. On Thursday, some complained about the lines and wait times to get into the show. On Friday, the NMMA didn’t require full screening of the exhibitors or the media, which shortened lines substantially. Industry members simply had to show a photo identification to gain admission. Also, to reduce the crush at the start of the show on Saturday and ensuing days, attendees were allowed to enter the center courtyard at 9:30 on Saturday morning, which also reduced wait times.
After three years at the new location, there are still things that can be tweaked. Moving forward, Dammrich said the lines at the food trucks, especially during peak lunch times, and the transportation leaving the show still need to be addressed.
At the end of the day, many people were trying to leave at the same time. Visitors and exhibitors could either take a bus to their parked cars or to the Miami Seaquarium parking lot where cabs and Uber/Lyft rides awaited, or they could get on water taxis that dropped off at the American Airlines arena and Bayfront Park.
“Although the lines for the buses to the parking lots looked long, they moved quickly and people did not spend a lot of time in line waiting for buses,” said Dammrich. He did acknowledge that the wait times for the water taxis were longer.
“When everybody wants to leave at the same time, it’s hard to get enough water taxis there to do it and it’s the timing of the water taxis,” said Dammrich. “Our biggest problem we have to work on is outbound at the end of the show. That will be our biggest priority for next year.”