The Progressive Miami International Boat Show is increasing the number of water taxis taking show visitors to and from Virginia Key by more than 47 percent next year in an effort to ease long lines and meet the high demand for water transportation.
The in-water portion of the show is also growing, already almost 33 percent larger than in 2016 with seven months to go before show time.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association will run 25 large vessels for the 2017 show, set for Feb. 16-20 at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, up from 17 last year, NMMA president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today.
“We will have larger vessels and … we’ll be concentrating more water taxis from fewer departure points so we can have more regular service and keep lines to a minimum,” Dammrich said.
The 2016 show, the first held at the new Virginia Key site, had seven locations for water taxi pickup; the 2017 show will have four or five, Dammrich said. That increases the number of taxis transporting people from each location, hopefully decreasing wait times.
“It will be more intensive service from fewer departure points,” he said.
The capacity of the water taxis will range from 50 to 350 people, larger than many of the vessels used for the previous show.
“We have some information we didn’t have last year. We have a record of how many people we transport from each location, at what times of day,” Dammrich said. “We will still be running shuttle buses from those same locations, as well.”
Organizers had planned to transfer 25,000 people to the 2016 show via water taxi, but actually transported almost 53,000. That number does not include people who waited in long lines before giving up and choosing another method of transportation — or another activity, as some exhibitors at the show feared.
To address some of the crowding that occurred as visitors who had driven to the show tried to board buses to take them to parking lots, the 2017 show will run smaller “and a far greater number of shuttles to and from the parking lots, so that will be a more continuous service there, as well,” Dammrich said.
The in-water portion of the show will be larger next year.
“Last year we had 409 boats in the water,” Dammrich said. “Right now we have confirmed 543 boats in the water, and we’re continuing to get more requests. We still have room in the water. We can grow to 800 boats. We just placed an order for new docks to expand the in-water portion of the show.”
That part of the show proved popular during last year’s show because of perfect weather — sunny, with temperatures in the 70s — during most of the week.
The Strictly Sail portion of the show at Bayside will continue in that location in 2017, Dammrich said. The KLM section of the show that was between Whiskey Joe’s and the Rusty Pelican and consisted of cash vendors will be discontinued.
The NMMA announced a year before the 2016 show that it would move to Virginia Key and work with the city to develop a flex park. Despite an initial plan for the marine stadium falling through and the neighboring village of Key Biscayne creating roadblocks — ranging from lawsuits to hiring a public relations firm to oppose the show — organizers pulled off the event, essentially building it from the ground up.
The opposition seems to have dissipated since the 2016 show ended. “The show didn’t cause them any problems last year,” Dammrich said. “There’s nothing to complain about. None of their fears materialized.”
Yachts Miami Beach, formerly known as the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, has completely different ownership and is still operating along Collins Avenue on Miami Beach and at the Island Gardens Deep Harbour superyacht marina on Watson Island.
The NMMA also plans to address other concerns that exhibitors and visitors have.
“We expect to have a new food service provider being finalized in the next few days,” Dammrich said. “We’ll also have better signage so people can find the toilets. And there will be ample toilets.”
The NMMA is improving lighting in the vast tents to make them brighter.
“At the intersections of docks we’re adding 200 square feet of triangles to improve the flow of traffic,” Dammrich said. “There are a lot of things that aren’t going to be obvious to people, but we’re fine tuning to improve the overall experience.”