The Broward County Commission agreed on Thursday to give the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show clearance to take place, provided organizers add some safety measures to its extensive safety plan.
The five-day event — slated for Oct. 28-Nov. 1 — will move forward with Informa Markets’ comprehensive AllSecure health and safety standards in place that prioritizes the safety of all attendees, exhibitors, crew members and staff.
Commissioners and city and county officials wanted show owners and organizers to also commit to a zero-tolerance approach to those who potentially ignore safety precautions or rules at the show, and ensure that those waiting to enter the show don’t gather too closely.
“I think we need to reduce number of attendees to account for square footage that is not accessible to public,” said Commissioner Tim Ryan during the meeting. “We’re going to be at capacity on Saturday and Sunday by noon, we want to make sure people aren’t queuing up.”
After a spate of major industry events have been cancelled worldwide, Viking Yachts president and CEO Pat Healey said he welcomed the news.
“We’re very pleased with the news that the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is taking place, and the show has our 100 percent support,” Healey told Trade Only Today. “It’s an incredible event and a very important one for both Viking and the marine industry. We’re encouraged by their safety plans and attention to detail, and we will certainly do our part to support their efforts and make sure our display is safe with the proper health protocols and procedures. We look forward to seeing our owners, dealers and industry colleagues as we continue to get back to normal.”
Commissioners mentioned the possibility of negative attention the county would receive if the show became what’s been come to be known as a super spreader event, but also emphasized that if done right, it could become an example to others on how to safely hold such events.
Ultimately, commissioners provided clear direction for County Administrator Betha Henry to approve the show provided organizers meet those criteria.
The Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the show, and show producer Informa U.S. Boat Shows have emphasized the planning and care that has gone into rethinking the show with the focus on pandemic safety.
“FLIBS is a major economic driver for the marine industry and the surrounding community,” said Informa president Andrew Doole in a statement. “We recognize the importance of the show and have spoken with key stakeholders, customers and local government officials, and the resounding response has been in support of moving forward with the outdoor event this fall. We have worked diligently to develop a plan so that every person who attends the show can do so with confidence. We are grateful for the support of our elected officials, and our community.”
The massive economic impact of FLIBS was a recurring theme among the many who spoke on behalf of holding the show — including several from the hard-hit travel, tourism and hotel industries.
One speaker representing the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach — a centerpiece of activity for the event — said that property alone had laid off 100 workers.
“How great would it be to hire half those back?” she asked.
Organizers said that in 2019, the show generated an economic impact of $1.3 billion to the state of Florida and more than 8,000 full-time jobs were associated with the show.
“I am extremely pleased that the County Commission gave clear direction today that the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show can take place as planned next month. It is vital that we get our economy back on track,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis in a statement. ” The upcoming Boat Show is critical to accomplishing that because the show has a major positive economic impact on Fort Lauderdale by supporting local businesses and their employees.”
Trantalis continued: “Public health will be protected. Fort Lauderdale has been a leader in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have worked with the Boat Show to put together a solid plan to ensure it will be held with the utmost safety.”
More than 80 percent of the show takes place in open-air outdoor spaces, spanning nearly 90 acres across multiple sites.
“FLIBS is an opportunity to jumpstart the local and state economy through direct sales, as well as hotel stays, transportation, dining, and recreation,” said CEO Phil Purcell. “Our land-based businesses benefit from the show just as much as our marine businesses. We are pleased our local officials continue to recognize the importance of this event and have given us their full support to move forward.”
In its 61-year history, FLIBS has never been cancelled, despite various threats like hurricanes and economic downturns, thanks to the continued support from the boating community.
Organizers have encouraged visitors to visit the “Know Before You Go” video to prepare for attending the show.