Good Show, Disappointing Show

Opinions are mixed about the first Miami Yacht Show, but many say it was a successful sales event
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The show’s grid layout at One Herald Plaza in Miami was a sea change from its straight-line formation on Collins Avenue.

The show’s grid layout at One Herald Plaza in Miami was a sea change from its straight-line formation on Collins Avenue.

Reactions to the first Miami Yacht Show were mixed, with some exhibitors praising the new location and others criticizing what they perceived as first-year shortcomings.

Attendance at One Herald Plaza in Miami was up 7.3 percent compared with the show’s final year on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, according to organizer Informa. The logistics for setting up a show that big were not easy, according to Andrew Doole, president of Informa Global Exhibitions, U.S. Boat Shows. Beyond having to install 4.3 miles of floating docks, along with infrastructure for electricity and water access (for fire prevention), Informa had to deal with city, state and federal permits — and getting some came down to the wire.

“It’s not like just pulling an event permit,” Doole says. “We had to deal with four levels of government, including getting the environmental permits for seagrass beds on the edge of the show that we couldn’t touch.”

Informa announced last year that it was moving the show after 30 years of it being held on Collins Avenue. “Normally, a move this big is a two-year process, but we were able to get it done in a year,” Doole says.

Informa wanted improved amenities, including easy parking, and a more walkable grid structure, as opposed to the 2-mile span along Collins Avenue. The primary reason for the move, Doole says, was the show’s “symbiotic” relationship with the Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show.

“As soon as the NMMA show left the convention center in Miami Beach, many attendees were confused with what was going on,” says Doole. “Our goal in moving closer is for attendees to be able to see both shows in the same day.”

The Miami International Boat Show, which moved to its current location on Virginia Key in 2016, had its own challenges, including a three-year lawsuit by the village of Key Biscayne and similar permitting problems. This year, the two shows shared a marketing budget to promote both events.

While the Miami International Boat Show has established itself, some exhibitors say the message did not get out about the new Miami Yacht Show. “They’re going to need to do a better job of marketing the event,” says Chuck Cashman, chief revenue officer at MarineMax. “They said they doubled their marketing spend this year, but we had customers calling us from Miami Beach saying, ‘Where’s the show?’ Informa will have their work cut out for them for next year.”

Other exhibitors were worried on opening day when show traffic looked much lighter than a typical first day on Collins Avenue.

“I was not happy Thursday night,” says Federico Ferrante, president of Azimut-Benetti USA. “But then it turned around completely for the rest of the show.”

Azimut sold 20 boats across multiple size ranges — 18 at the Miami Yacht Show and two smaller models at the Miami International Boat Show — compared with 16 boats sold last year. At the same time, the company lost electrical power to its boats on the Miami Yacht Show’s final day.

“It was a good show from a sales standpoint, but there were a lot of issues Informa needs to work through,” says Ferrante.

MarineMax, which represented the Azimut and Galeon brands at the Miami Yacht Show, spent months preparing for the new event.

“We accomplished more with less by setting up appointments well ahead of time,” Cashman says. “I was extremely disappointed with the traffic, both coming into the show and moving around it. We didn’t need to invest millions to get people we already know. We worked our database furiously to drive our customers to our booths.”

Improved access to parking, commuter rails and the Miami International Boat Show were key reasons for the move into Miami.

Improved access to parking, commuter rails and the Miami International Boat Show were key reasons for the move into Miami.

In the end, Cashman says, MarineMax posted strong sales. “I never felt like it was a good show, but it ended up well.”

Federico Martini, president of Sirena Yachts, voiced a similar complaint. “We were very satisfied with the results after Miami, but it had nothing to do with the show. Our U.S. dealers brought in their clients, and we made our sales that way. We didn’t get any new, unexpected visitors to our booth, like we would’ve every other year at Miami Beach,” he said.

The Miami Yacht Show’s new grid layout favored the top three exhibitors — Azimut, Ferretti and Viking — on the show’s front docks. Patrick Healey, president and CEO of Viking Yachts Co., stated in a post-show press release that he was “extremely pleased” with the new downtown location. “Everything from the increased parking to the fresh, new waterfront layout helped make this a first-class exposition and major success.”

Viking, which also had space at the NMMA show, sold nine yachts and has “deals in the works” on another 10, according to the statement. The only suggestion Viking had for improvement next year was to have a water shuttle between the two shows.

Doole says a water shuttle was in the original plans, but permits did not come through in time. His team was planning to meet with exhibitors and discuss changes for next year. “There are a lot of things we will do differently,” Doole says. “Still, there seems to have been a lot of buying activity.”

A number of exhibitors agree. “In the end, our results were better than I thought they’d be, considering it was the first year of the show,” says Randy Coleman, vice president of sales North America for the Ferretti Group. “I was apprehensive going into it. I wasn’t thrilled about the location, though I was happy with our position at the front. It was a decent show for us. We closed deals and are still finalizing some contracts.”

The Miami Yacht Show’s main docks on the south side of the Venetian Causeway had a grid structure, with three long corridors on the front dock that led to other new-boat builders and back to the brokerage section. Martini says the layout did not entice visitors to wander off the main corridors to displays like his; instead many showgoers stayed on the central corridor, next to the Azimut display.

“They had big boats in the center and small boats on the corners, so the bigger boats blocked the view of the smaller ones,” he says. “It was impossible for people to see us. There was no visibility at all.”

Martini prefers the straight line of exhibitors on Collins Avenue, where visitors would walk the length of the show to see the smaller yacht builders.

Builders complained of slow traffic on the first two days of the show, but weekend attendance increased.

Builders complained of slow traffic on the first two days of the show, but weekend attendance increased.

Cashman prefers the new grid structure. “I could get around the show much faster,” he says. “On Collins, it might take me an hour to get from one end to the next. Most customers aren’t going to spend that time going back and forth between two boats they’re interested in. This new setup was a big improvement.”

The north side of the new show was smaller than the south side and involed crossing the Venetian Causeway. Hank Compton, managing director of Grand Banks Yachts, says the location did not bother him or his customers.

“This was more successful for us than when we exhibited at the NMMA show last year,” Compton says of the Miami International Boat Show. “The numbers of visitors were down compared to what we’ve seen in the past, but we still had quality people come through. The quality of our leads was better than last year. We’re going to stay where we are.”

This year’s Miami Yacht Show also had a new component: a 67,000-square-foot display of 200 equipment and service providers in a building on land. Foot traffic over the weekend was strong, according to some exhibitors.

“We saw both boat owners and many yacht captains for our products,” says Glyn Day of Fire Ranger, which installs fire-suppression systems. “In that sense, it was almost like a consumer and trade show. We were very pleased with the leads we received.”

Over at SuperYacht Miami on Watson Island, where the Miami Yacht Show’s larger yachts were moored, Grant Henderson of Baglietto said he was “very happy” with the show.

“Overall, we were impressed with the quality of customers and brokers who visited our boat,” Henderson stated in a post-show press release. “Having a new boat in the show to demonstrate what we are capable of building is a tremendous opportunity.”

Despite the Miami Yacht Show’s uneven first year, most exhibitors are planning for next year’s event.

“We’re already having discussions with Informa on how we can improve the show,” Coleman says. “We need to work on communications to the public and details like shuttles, but I’m confident we can work through most of that stuff.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue.

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