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Cautious hope for Fort Lauderdale show

Some organizers and exhibitors expect a turnaround in sales to start with large Florida offering


With a slow and uncertain economy heading into the November elections, nobody is expecting record-breaking sales at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Still, producers and exhibitors are optimistic it will be a good showing.

“Expectations are high,” says Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the show. “The economy is certainly having an effect on [boat] sales, but we don’t think this is like other areas. This has historically been South Florida’s major, major marine market.”

Some feel the Fort Lauderdale show will help reinvigorate the local economy, says Jay Reynolds, owner of J.P. Reynolds Co., a Fort Lauderdale-based customs broker and yacht transportation company.

“I think hopes are high that it’s going to be a turnaround for the marine economy,” says Reynolds, who also serves as chairman of the MIASF boat show committee. “The numbers are looking good. Booth space is filled up.”

J.J. McConnell, co-owner of Gilman Yachts and president of MIASF, is so certain the show will be successful he’s trying to add three more slips to the 25 he already reserved. “I’m expecting a good show,” he says.

Despite the poor economy, McConnell says boats are selling. Gilman Yachts closed on half a dozen boats in August, he says, which is typically the dealer’s slowest month. McConnell is especially optimistic about international buyers because of the weak U.S. dollar and favorable exchange rate. “Europe has always been strong,” he says. “[And] we’re starting to see more coming out of South America.”

Jim Renfrow, vice president of sales for Fairline Florida, also has a positive outlook for the Fort Lauderdale show. “I can’t put my finger on any one thing. … I’m just trying to remain optimistic,” he says.

“There are things working against us, like the election,” he acknowledges. “But I think we have to remain positive. There is some pent-up demand in the marketplace. I think there are people out there who are just waiting to do business.”

The 49th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show runs Oct. 30-Nov. 3 and will feature more than $3 billion worth of boats, electronics, engines and accessories. The show encompasses more than 3 million square feet of space on land and in the water at six locations: Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel & Yacht Club, Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel & Marina, Hall of Fame Marina, and Las Olas Marina.

As of late August, exhibitor registration was on pace with last year, according to Efrem Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, which owns the boat show’s producer Show Management Inc. “We expect a slight shift toward bigger boats and brokerage boats,” Zimbalist says.


He noted that some of the space assignments are changing because of consolidations, acquisitions and line pruning, but he says the overall look and feel of the show will be about the same as last year. “We are planning for and will be happy if the show is flat with last year, given the macroeconomic and industry conditions,” he says.

Concerning attendance, Zimbalist says advance ticket sales are more than double what they were last year. However, he says this doesn’t necessarily mean attendance will be double. Rather, he believes people are increasingly buying tickets in advance online.

Last year’s show had attendees from 41 states and 34 countries. Foreign ticket sales for this year’s show by late August had already reached where they were for all of last year, according to Zimbalist.

The Fort Lauderdale show also serves as a gathering point for industry professionals, and several organizations are planning meetings, awards presentations and seminars for marine professionals.

The Marine Marketers Association will hold an awards luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Bahia Mar Hotel Harbor Lights Room, and Boating Writers International will host its annual Newsmakers General Meeting from 8 to 10 a.m. Oct. 31 at the Bahia Mar Hotel, Stateroom D.

The International Superyacht Society will host a number of events in Fort Lauderdale that week. The schedule includes:

• board of directors meeting, from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 28 at ISS headquarters, 777 S.E. 20th St.

• membership meeting and breakfast, from 8 to 10 a.m. Oct. 29 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center.

• ISS International Awards Gala for design, leadership, innovation and distinguished crew, from 7 p.m. to midnight Oct. 30 in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort.

• crew training seminars and luncheon, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center.

For information, contact Show Management at (954) 764-7642, or visit

This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue.


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