Some ‘fine tuning’ for the Miami show

Organizers draw on 2016 experience to beef up in-water display capabilities and cut down on water taxi and bus wait times

The Progressive Miami International Boat Show is buying additional docks to expand its in-water presence in 2017, as well as beefing up public transportation to and from the show site in an effort to ease long lines. The event is scheduled for Feb. 16-20 at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin.

The show had 33 percent more boats lined up for its in-water portion as of late July, up from 409 in 2016 to 543 in 2017, and organizers expect that number to grow between now and February.

“We’re continuing to get more requests,” says National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich. “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.”

That part of the show proved popular last February due, in part, to perfect weather — sunny, with temperatures in the 70s during most of the week. It was also a draw because it gave boatbuilders the capability of conducting sea trials without taking customers to a second location — a first for the show.

The NMMA also is increasing the number of water taxis taking visitors to and from Virginia Key by more than 47 percent in an effort to ease long lines and meet the high demand for water transportation, running 25 large vessels for the 2017 show. That compares with 17 water taxis at the 2016 show, Dammrich says.

“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,” says Dammrich. The capacity of the water taxis will range from 50 to 350 people — larger than many of the vessels used for the previous show.

Water-taxi demand was high at the 2016 show and will be expanded for 2017.

Water-taxi demand was high at the 2016 show and will be expanded for 2017.

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 says. 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 says. “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. 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 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 says.

The Strictly Sail portion of the show at Bayside will continue in that location, Dammrich says. 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 says. “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 says. “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. And “at the intersections of docks we’re adding 200 square feet of triangles to improve the flow of traffic,” Dammrich says. “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.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.


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