WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach International Boat Show will be the largest in its 31-year history, with an increase of 8 percent in the total number of boats and a 25 percent boost in the number of boats over 100 feet.
“This is the fastest-growing boat show in the country — and this year it is the largest show we’ve ever had,” Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Show Management, which manages and produces the show, told an audience of 75 to 100 people at a media briefing this morning on the show’s opening day. “We’ve grown every year, except for that tough period in ’08 and ’09.”
Zimbalist also delivered some other statistics: This year, there are 684 boats on display in the water and an estimated 350 on land. There is a 6 percent increase in the number of boats under 100 feet — from 571 to 603. Boats over 100 feet increased from 65 to 81.
The show also features its largest yacht ever — the 253-foot Silver Fast. The show is owned and sponsored by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc.
“Advance ticket sales are good, and all things portend to a great show,” Zimbalist added.
The briefing also included a panel discussion with a variety of speakers representing the industry, the yacht brokerage business and consulting and educational leaders.
Moderated by Michael Kennedy, board president of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, the panel participants agreed that the industry must develop its workforce in the technical and business management sectors.
“We need a trained workforce in our county in all aspects,” said Chuck Collins, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County. “[The industry] is having a hard time finding people.”
Tom Duncan, president of Keiser University’s flagship campus in West Palm Beach, reiterated the point and said Keiser, beginning in 2017, will offer a Boat and Yachts Marine Management degree. “We will provide that entry-level education on the business side,” he said.
Boating access and waterfront dockage were also at issue. “We are rebuilding our marinas for wider and larger slips because boats continue to get bigger,” said John Sprague, founder of JH Sprague Consulting. He said the increase in slip size "winds up actually decreasing the public marine facilities available.”
Attracting young people to boating is also critical for the industry, panelists said.
“We must decrease the intimidation factor in boating,” said Steve Moynihan, founder and owner of HMY Yachts. “We need to eliminate the stalls and roadblocks to get them involved.”