Expectations are high for heavy traffic and strong sales at the 27th annual Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, which takes place Feb. 12-16 along a mile-long stretch of Collins Avenue.
The free, in-water show, which covers more than 1.2 million square feet on the Indian Creek Waterway, will feature more than 500 new and used boats valued at more than $1 billion. With many manufacturers riding high on last year’s sales, as well as momentum from the fall shows, excitement is running higher than it has in years, and more builders are planning to introduce new models and refreshed products for 2015.
“There’s a lot of momentum from the past few shows,” says Steve Sheer of Show Management, which produces the show and co-owns it with the Florida Yacht Brokers Association. “There are going to be a lot of new boats in Miami this year. And everybody wants more space, which is a good sign.”
Not only do existing exhibitors want more space, but new ones are also being added, says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Show Management’s parent company, Active Interest Media. (Soundings Trade Only also is owned by Active Interest Media.)
“We have a lot of new exhibitors,” including Cruisers Yachts, Taiwan-based Dyna Craft Ltd. and the Hacker Boat Co., Zimbalist says. In addition, Riva will bring a 122-foot cruiser the company introduced at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last fall. Overmarine/Mangusta will bring a brand-new 165-foot yacht.
“In terms of sizes, these things vary up to the last minute, but I’m confident we’re going to have at least 15 boats over 150 feet and more than 75 boats over 100 feet,” says Zimbalist. “Space sales are going very well; we’re well ahead of last year in sales,” he adds. “People seem to be coming off the Fort Lauderdale show with a bounce in their step, and they are increasing their presence in Miami as a result.”
The weather around the country in February can be a blessing or a curse, Sheer says. Last year, bad weather in the Carolinas and the Atlanta area prevented many flights from reaching Miami. But poor weather also can prevent people from leaving Miami and keep them around longer. The show is free, so attendance figures are scarce.
“There’s no gate, so tracking attendance is tough,” Sheer says. “But we’ll go through 30,000 programs. It’s hard to say what the number is because we have so many eyeballs that walk by.”
Viking Yacht Co., which has a sizable display at the show, will position its new 92 Convertible so it’s immediately visible from the street. Viking tracks its booth visitors and had triple the number of people show up to peruse its models at last year’s show, says Peter Frederiksen, communications director for the company.
“The same thing happened in the Fort Lauderdale show,” Frederiksen adds. “We registered something like 7,000 people over the five days of that show, visitors all coming to see our 15-boat display. We had promoted the boats pretty heavily, and people showed up. We expect Miami to be just as big as last year, if not bigger.”
Viking will include its three new boats — the 92, a 75 Motor Yacht and a 52 Sport Tower — in its 15-boat mix. “We’ve had a great response to the 92, which is the largest boat in our 50 years of history,” Frederiksen says. “We’ve sold nine of them so far. It’s just an unprecedented amount of activity in that size range.”
At Fort Lauderdale, eight of the 92s were sold — “people couldn’t line up fast enough,” Frederiksen says, because they gravitate to what’s new. Viking had left motoryachts for a period and has seen interest with its return to the segment. The company also has been selling its 52-footers faster than it can build them, he says. “Our models are so new and fresh. That’s what’s really working for us.”
But it’s the combination of the products and the boat show buzz that gets people buying, Frederiksen says. “It takes a boat show to get people excited to buy something. When they read about it in a magazine or see one boat at a time, there’s not that pent-up excitement like when they’re all in one location in a boat show. With our production schedule and backlog, we feel Miami is going to be a very good show for us.”
Exhibitors will continue to host events and VIP customers at their in-water displays during evening hours, Zimbalist says. “It’s a great setting for them to have a cocktail party or event, and it’s cost-effective for them to do it like that. That’s been growing every year. We want to make sure things are quiet and safe, but we think it’s a great feature that really activates the whole Collins Avenue area at night. It creates a festival there,” Zimbalist says.
The show’s CruiserPort will offer a display of trawlers and other long-range cruisers from 35 to 90 feet. Down East boats had been included in that section until last year, when they were given their own grouping in response to the segment’s growing popularity.
“Miami should be great,” says Bentley Collins, sales and marketing vice president for Sabre Yachts and vice president of sister company Back Cove Yachts. “The Down East section was great, and I think it will improve.”
Though Collins wishes more of Maine’s boatbuilders were able to muster a boat for the section, he was pleased that organizers continued the special designation. “With Sabre, Back Cove, Hinckley, Eastbay, MJM, Palm Beach there, the stronger players were on hand. There were a few Down East Istanbul builders that showed up, as well, so overall I think the concept of putting all like boats together is a good one. At least the show promoters are recognizing the popularity of the segment.”
Collins says the Sabre range does well, though the smaller Back Coves don’t get as much attention in Miami. Still, 2014 was a good year for the company, and Collins thinks that will carry over into Miami. “It was a record year for retail sales activity, and that has left us with a very good backlog, with most models sold out for the entire year ahead and some beyond that.”
Outside the Down East section will be the PassageMaker magazine seminar tent, which is larger this year to accommodate more attendees at the popular sessions. PassageMaker has had standing-room-only crowds at past events. The show again will host two floating cocktail barges, food and live music.
In the future
Organizers are planning an additional show location at Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina in 2016. When it is completed, the new marina, located on Watson Island, will be able to accommodate 35 to 75 yachts from 80 to 480 feet, the largest collection of slips for yachts of this size in South Florida. “It’s being built as a superyacht marina, and it will have all of the amenities that entails,” Zimbalist says. “It will take at least one boat over 400 feet. It will take lots of boats in the 200-plus size range.”
The billion-dollar, 6.5-acre Island Gardens project will include the marina, two hotels — a five-star luxury hotel and a four-star lifestyle hotel — a public access promenade, at least seven restaurants, perhaps a fish market, time shares and lavish landscaping. The development is on Watson Island, an 86-acre island accessible by car via the MacArthur Causeway.
“In terms of footprint, it won’t be a formal part of the show this year because they are not finished with the construction, but we will be showcasing what is to come on Watson Island,” Zimbalist says. “This will be more of a yacht hop to show what will available for 2016.”
The marina is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, so it should be ready for next year’s show, Zimbalist says, giving a home to the mega-yachts that have posed accommodation challenges at the Miami Beach venue.
Organizers also will continue to work with the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers to address the hump in the channel that exhibitors experienced last year. An expansion at the Port of Miami has generated a sea grass mitigation project in Biscayne Bay that has the effect of narrowing the waterway for boats attending the show on Collins Avenue to about 70 feet.
“It will be the same situation; tugboats will be there to help people through,” Zimbalist says.
A geopolitical boost
The show is attracting an increasing number of international builders that are looking to the United States to boost sales as the economies in their countries continue to flail. That translates to more attendees from around the world.
“The geopolitical situation is generally favorable to the United States in terms of boat shows,” Zimbalist says. “Exhibitors are looking at the United States as the strongest market right now. They’re looking to have a presence in the United States, and that benefits the show and the industry. People who are serious about buying know they’re going to see all the boats here.”
Miami has a particularly strong appeal to people based in Mexico and Central and South America, although as many as 40 countries are represented among brand offerings. Collins says instability in European markets can cause some worry among buyers, however. “2015 was looking really good, but the economic issues surrounding super-low fuel prices and the nervousness in the markets are troubling,” he says. “The worldwide economy could slow considerably and slip back into recession, while the U.S. economy seems to be heading in the right direction. In other words, things look great, but we are always watching out for bumps in the road.”
Despite some instability overseas, builders seemed optimistic about the show. “We’re pretty upbeat around these shows,” Frederiksen says. “It’s always the venue where we determine where we’re going to go for the rest of the year.”
“I expect it to be a busy show and a well-attended show,” says Sheer. “The buyers have started to surface at the past couple of major shows. I think a lot of the momentum started in Miami last year, and I expect it to carry forward this year.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue.