Miami Yacht Show: Strong Sales, Bright Future

Exhibitors say the planned 2019 move to a new venue should help already-strong sales.
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The Miami Yacht Show, which ran Feb. 15-19 on Collins Avenue, received positive feedback from exhibitors who said the show ran smoothly and saw qualified buyers.

“This year’s show fared well overall in terms of operations, as well as exhibitor and attendee participation,” says Andrew Doole, general manager of Informa, the Miami Yacht Show’s co-owner and producer. “And we now have exciting plans to support its continued growth.”

After 30 years of being held along the Indian Creek Waterway, the show will move to Biscayne Bay in 2019, Informa announced. The new site, between the Venetian and MacArthur causeways, is expected to be easier to access, have more parking and be closer to the Superyachts Miami venue at Island Gardens Marina on Watson Island, says Mary Bender, marketing vice president for Informa. Water taxis will connect those two portions of the 2019 show, which is scheduled to take place February 13-17.

“Where we’re going to see the big change is on land,” Bender says. “There will be 3,500 parking spaces, more booths, a larger VIP area and more complementary brands. The land footprint will go up dramatically, but again, most of that will be in parking, which we’re just incredibly grateful to have.”

Another factor in the decision to move the Miami Yacht Show was getting it closer to the separately owned, concurrently running Miami International Boat Show, which relocated from the Miami Convention Center three years ago. It is held at Virginia Key’s Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin.

“It took some time to understand the impact of their move on our attendees, and the difficulty they were having when they wanted to attend both shows,” Bender says. “We all know what hotel prices on Miami Beach are like. The move-in time will be shorter. We think that will make a difference.”

She continued, “We don’t put shows where we don’t think they’ll be successful. We’re really excited we’re going to move the show to a location that better supports this type of event.”

Management also hopes the new location for the Miami Yacht Show will allow for sea trials, which have been a popular addition to the Miami International Boat Show.

That possibility appeals to Seakeeper Chief Operating Officer Andrew Semprevivo. “We have a product that touches almost all boats and yachts alike, so anything these two shows can do to better align with consumers’ needs will be great,” Semprevivo says. “Hopefully there will be demo opportunities within the Miami Yacht Show where we will be able to showcase our product as well.”

Crowds were steady at the yacht show and exhibitors said there were serious buyers.

Crowds were steady at the yacht show and exhibitors said there were serious buyers.

Enthusiasm builds for new venue

Exhibitors responded favorably to the planned change, citing parking and traffic challenges on Miami Beach.

“I think it’s a great move,” says Viking Yachts CEO Pat Healey. “It’s a win-win for attendees of the show.”

Also optimistic is the team at Sea Ray, which is among several vendors that display at both shows.

“The effort show attendees had to make this year to travel between shows was a bit too much to ask,” says Scott Ward, senior vice president and general manager of Sea Ray’s sport yacht and yacht category. “This new location will allow for a better experience for our team and our customers to move between the two shows.”

Travel was so tedious between the shows that some customers felt pressed to choose, says Argos Nautic sales and marketing vice president Patrick Sullivan.

“There must be business reasons for them to move it, and those reasons have to include providing a better experience for visitors and exhibitors,” Sullivan says. “I’m going to put my faith in Informa. I’m pretty confident they see this show as a very valuable part of the business.”

Bob Denison of Denison Yachting, also with displays at both shows, says he traveled back and forth — and did not enjoy the endeavor.

“As much as I’ll miss Third World traffic, overpriced three-star hotels and South Beach snobbery, I couldn’t be happier for the move to a new location,” Denison quips. “I’m probably a little biased, but I think the Miami Yacht Show will be better than ever.” 

The biggest concern for most exhibitors was getting the word out to attendees that the show would be moving, but Sanlorenzo’s marketing director, Marc Welch, says he was encouraged that both Miami shows were co-marketing the events. Healey recorded video during the 2018 show to distribute in Viking’s newsletter, so the relocation would be on customers’ radars right away.

Buyers showed up

The AquaZone enterained show visitors with live demonstrations of water toys.

The AquaZone enterained show visitors with live demonstrations of water toys.

Sanlorenzo threw a party to celebrate the debut of its SX88 with the introduction of hull No. 2, which was optioned for an American audience and envisioned as a floating loft. At 88 feet, the boat has a 23.5-foot beam and “a ton of space,” Welch says.

“It was the first time we’ve held a large event, and it was a really good event: We had over 370 people,” Welch says. “Usually we do smaller events, but given the style of the boat — which is really designed for entertaining, and a little more modern to appeal to a younger audience — we decided to do something different to celebrate. The market responded really well.”

The company left the show having sold an SD112, which retails for around $16 million.

“Obviously we had big-boat buyers, and everything in between,” Welch says. “It was a good audience. I think we had three offers on the SX88, which we’re still working.”

Viking Yachts displayed 19 yachts between the two shows — its entire fleet from 37 to 93 feet length overall — and drew a combined 6,000 visitors in five days, communications director Chris Landry. Between that attendance and its VIP preview event Feb. 2-3, Viking sold 20 boats.

“Twenty boats in 20 days,” Healey says. “The two Miami shows were very successful for us: excellent sales activity and interest in all of our models.”

“As expected, our two newest models — the 68 Convertible and 44 Convertible  —generated high media interest and attracted buyers eager to take delivery of fresh, innovative designs from Viking,” Landry says.

A good mix of customers

The Denison team walked away from both shows with four deals written on new boats, including the Sanlorenzo SD112, as well as on two brokerage boats.

“Most of our brokers met a decent amount of new prospects to have conversations with throughout the year,” Denison says.

The Miami Yacht Show audience has always been a focus for Argos Nautic, maker of inflatable tenders, because it is looking to position itself among yacht owners.

“There is a tender section at Virginia Key, but we feel like our customer is at the yacht show both from a dealer and a customer perspective,” Sullivan says. “The show was really fantastic — especially the first two days. We saw tons of really qualified people.

“We saw a lot of international customers, but also a lot of Americans,” Sullivan added. “I think Miami has had a reputation as being almost an overly international show, but I thought this year there was a really nice balance.”

Organizers began charging a $25 entry fee last year — a good move, Sullivan says. Though the dock crowds now are sparser, the people who show up are qualified.

Denison agreed: “The docks at Collins were definitely lighter, but most of the companies I talked to were happy with the results. Most of the chatter was about quality over quantity.”

For the second year, visitors paid a $25 admission fee. 

For the second year, visitors paid a $25 admission fee. 

Logistical improvements

The Miami Yacht Show is co-owned by London-based Informa and the International Yacht Brokers Association. This was the first year of the event since Informa purchased its stake when buying Show Management last year.

“We were fortunate to have beautiful weather, and the caliber of the client was excellent,” says IYBA interim executive director Paul Flannery. “I had reports from several exhibitors that they enjoyed success and expect to see more business in the days to come as a result of their encounters at the show. The Miami Yacht Show remains one of the most important shows of the year and with changes for 2019 in the making, we expect it will continue to be critical show for the marine industry and new buyers”

It was Sanlorenzo’s best Miami Yacht Show from a logistics perspective, Welch says. Informa invested several million dollars in new electrical systems and fiberglass docks approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The docks are safer and easier to walk on, the company says. It also beefed up signage with totems that can stand up to the wind, Bender says.

“It was apparent that additional investments were made to make it easier to commute between the various locations of the show and provide options for an ultra-luxurious experience,” says Sally Doleski, vice president of marketing at Ocean Alexander.

Electricity and shading remained issues, even with the upgraded systems, because it was so warm this year, Bender says.

“Keeping the folks who are at ticketing and working the show cool and hydrated can be challenging,” Bender says. “The new location will be more climate controlled.”

Electrical challenges went unnoticed in the Sanlorenzo booth, where yachts were fully powered when the team arrived before the show, Welch says.

“We had no issues with power at all, no surges,” he says. “My stand was assembled and built much faster than usual, and we had very few issues.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue.

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