The new Superyacht Village at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which runs Oct. 30-Nov. 3, represents continued movement into the larger-yacht segment, event organizers say. The exhibit space will move from its traditional location near the International Swimming Hall of Fame into the new Pier South location at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel and Marina.
Andrew Doole, president of Informa’s U.S. boat shows, says the closure of the Swimming Hall of Fame for renovation prompted the move. “At about the same time, we’ve been able to work closely with the Tavistock Group, which acquired Pier Sixty-Six, and they were open to what we wanted to do with the space.”
The new location will have longer berths than the previous space, allowing 400-foot yachts to dock. This year’s queen of the show, according to organizers, will be Excellence, a 262-foot motoryacht launched earlier this year at the Abeking and Rasmussen yard in Germany. There will be a half-dozen other superyachts at the new location, and the area will also have a bar and restaurant.
“Last year, the SYBAss barge, which was the nucleus of the superyacht operations, had about 15,000 square feet,” Doole says. “This year, the footprint measures 50,000 square feet. There’s much more room and better access for cars and limos, deeper-water dockage, and many more tenders running from Pier South. It’s a huge improvement.”
The Superyacht Village’s total marina and land space will measure 3.5 acres. It will include exotic cars, personal submarines, tenders and helicopters, as well as exhibit spaces by superyacht yards. The marina’s new owner and developer sees the Superyacht Village as a template for how Pier South will position itself going forward. “The exclusive offerings of the village align with our vision for the future of our iconic property as the social harbor of Fort Lauderdale,” Jessi Blakley, senior director of Tavistock Development Co., says in a press release.
Overall, the Fort Lauderdale show is expected to have 30 or more new-boat launches. Attendance, which has hovered around 110,000 for several years, should be up again after last year’s slight bump, Doole says. Owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida and produced by Informa, the show has a reported annual statewide economic impact of $857 million, displaying about $4 billion in boats and other products. There are 1,200 exhibitors with 1,500 boats on display. Show sales were reportedly about $508 million last year.
MarineMax will be one of the largest exhibitors, with 17 displays across most of the show’s sites. Its recent acquisition of Fraser Yachts, a brokerage and charter firm, will also place MarineMax in the Superyacht Village, where chief revenue officer Chuck Cashman will aim to match the customer experience with the caliber of the vessels.
“Since Informa began producing the show, they’ve invested in the infrastructure, and they’ve incorporated a level of professionalism that we appreciate,” he says. “We’ve also seen new docks, more consistent power to the booths and new signage. Everything is generally trending in the right direction.”
There is one improvement Cashman, brokers and other builders would like to see: better access for serious buyers. “If a customer is looking at a million-dollar boat, they oftentimes have to wait in line to see the boats and sometimes can’t even get on them,” he says. “Not everyone is recognizable as a buyer, and we do understand the need for controlling boarding on these vessels, but we also need to make sure the potential buyers can get on the boats.”
Show organizers and exhibitors have discussed ways to facilitate entry to boats for serious buyers. “We’ve batted around ideas and think maybe a digital experience — like a ticket on a phone for VIPs — could be a solution,” Cashman says. “But at this point nothing is a done deal.”
FLIBS continues to scale up with new amenities and entrances. Last year, Informa invested in a new entrance plaza and more elaborate signage throughout the show. It also went more upmarket with food vendors and amenities, such as the Windward VIP Club, which will have a new location this year. The show will also have a Cubic steel “mansion yacht” for VIP events that is 40 by 84 feet with a volume of 9,000 square feet. Its 18-foot hydraulic legs actually lift the hull above the water, as if on stilts.
The show again will work with NBC Sports Group on a one-hour special that will air on the NBC Sports Network. It will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the show, highlighting its scale, yachts and other attractions. “The first year had a reasonable viewership,” Doole says. “MIASF is working with NBC to see what we can change to make it stronger this year.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.