WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Attendance on the first day of the Palm Beach International Boat Show increased 23 percent and exhibitor revenue was up 5 percent, compared with last year, according to Show Management, organizers of the event.
"The West Palm Beach show is building to be a very strong show for boats 60 feet and up," Show Management CEO Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist said. "At this show we have the biggest single display by one exhibitor we've ever had, period — and that is HMY Yachts, which has over 50 boats here."
And there's a good reason for that. When show-goers come to the Palm Beach event, many are ready to buy, said Mike Strassel of HMY Yachts.
"It might be one of the best-attended shows by actual buyers," Strassel said. "We chose to make our largest display here at the Palm Beach show because buyers, after attending Fort Lauderdale and attending Miami and narrowing down their searches, will come here and close deals. We do a lot of business at this show and it is an important part of our yearly sales program."
HMY represents four brands: Viking, Tiara, Maritimo and Grand Banks. It has 51 new boats and 37 used boats from 31 to 164 feet at the show. "An important part of our marketplace is our brokerage, and it's the new sales that fuel our brokerage," Strassel said.
Overall at the show, the number of boats — both new and used —100 feet and larger is up 35 percent and the number of boats 80 to 100 feet has increased 29 percent, according to Show Management.
In March 2010, the Palm Beach show was the first to show signs of growth after a couple of years of declines in boat sales and exhibitor participation, Zimbalist said.
"Since then, every show that AIM has held has been better than the previous show in terms of exhibitor participation and attendance," Zimbalist said. "We had a slight dip in Fort Lauderdale in November  because of the deluge of rain. Otherwise, everything has pointed up. The growth hasn't been dramatic or double-digit, but it has been good, steady growth in terms of attendance and exhibitor participation."
Builders of smaller boats were also excited to be in West Palm Beach. "The West Palm Beach show really caters to the clientele interested in our type of boat," said David R. Cherubini, president and CEO of Cherubini Yachts in Delran, N.J., which builds yacht tenders, including a 25-foot sport cruiser that is debuting at the show. "We've done the show for quite a few years. The West Palm Beach show has always been a winner for us. We have a lot of friends in the area and a lot of clients here who have purchased our products here."
With aisles loaded with show-goers, exhibitors inside the accessories tent were upbeat. The event seems to get stronger every year, said Michael O'Connor, customer service representative for Atlantic Marine Electronics of Riviera Beach, Fla.
"It's the first day, but the crowd is looking really good," O'Connor said. "We're hoping it is a great show for us. The economy is looking better and the stock market, so we're hoping everyone has a prosperous show."
— Chris Landry