WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Organizers of the 2014 Palm Beach International Boat Show say overall attendance increased by 3.1 percent from last year.
Attendance was up 15 percent on both Thursday and Friday and down 10 percent on Saturday (because of rain), but finished strong with a 7 percent increase on Sunday, according to Show Management.
The number of new boats in the water increased by 6 percent and the number of exhibitors remained flat from last year. The number of boats 40 feet and smaller jumped by 29 percent.
“This is encouraging because these are the entry-level boaters,” Show Management CEO Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III said at a press event during the show. “We are starting to see more and more interest in those boats. People are becoming more comfortable with spending money. They are getting older and saying, ‘If not now, when?’ "
Boat manufacturers’ recent innovative new designs "really speak to today’s boater” and have brought energy to the market, Zimbalist said.
“People don’t have as much time to spend out on the water and are not as interested in having four cabins or staterooms,” he said. "What they want to do is go out for the day, maybe two days or a weekend, and have a great time with friends and family. Boats are being designed with that in mind. They are every bit as luxurious, but they are open and are perfect for having barbecues and for the kids to play. They’re not closed in with a lot of sleeping quarters that rarely get used."
There also were more boats on land, although Zimbalist did not have specific numbers. Show organizers expanded exhibitor space and heightened promotional activities, he said.
It was the first year for Galati Yacht Sales at the show, Galati vice president and general manager Darren Plymale said. The company displayed seven yachts, including a Westport 112, a 75 Princess, an 82 and 64 Viking and a 45 Grand Banks. "We couldn’t avoid going to this show because of all of our customers who come here, as opposed to going to Miami,” Plymale said. "They really love this show. It is a great setting here downtown.”
Plymale said the Palm Beach show attracts quality customers. "Virtually everyone we have contact with is a potential prospect for [a boat] we have,” he said.
Attendance increased by 3.7 percent from 2012 to 2013.