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Last year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show — as an indication of just how badly the recreational boating industry wanted to return to “normal” — set records for attendance, sales and economic impact.

Phil Purcell, CEO and president of show owner Marine Industries Association of South Florida, says it was the best show in the event’s history, generating a $1.79 billion economic impact to the state of Florida. Direct sales surpassed $899 million — that’s $179.8 million per day. More than 100,000 attendees entered the gates, where more than 1,000 exhibitors and 1,300 boats were on display.

The show is staged at seven locations throughout the city.

The show is staged at seven locations throughout the city.

And those numbers are expected to rise this year, with more international representation at the show, which is scheduled to run Oct. 26-30. European and Asian builders that couldn’t attend the past two years because of Covid-19 travel restrictions are expected to attend this year, along with more international attendees.

“With the inclusion of all the shipbuilders and yards coming, I really believe it could be the best boat show in the history of our company,” says Bob Denison, founder and president of Denison Yacht Sales. “I’m positive that the European yards will be at the show this year, and it will have a positive impact.”

Significant Impact

An economic study conducted by Thomas J. Murray & Associates revealed that the 2021 show created a $1.79 billion economic impact for Florida, an increase from the previous year’s $1.3 billion. Some 49 percent of attendees came from outside Florida. “Based on reservations of exhibitors and anticipated attendees, we expect another very good show,” Purcell says.

More than 100,000 people attended FLIBS last year, generating sales of more than $899 million.

More than 100,000 people attended FLIBS last year, generating sales of more than $899 million.

MIASF owns the show and partners with Informa Markets to produce and manage it. Andrew Doole, president of U.S. boat shows for Informa, shares Purcell’s positive outlook for this year, especially with the return of international visitors and exhibitors. “Last year, the travel ban with Europe was still on,” Doole says, adding that this year will be different. “You come to the show, and you’re looking at an Azimut or a Ferretti, and the guys who built the boat are here.”

Doole says more than a dozen new models larger than 100 feet are expected to be unveiled during this fall’s show from well-known names including Benetti, Mangusta, Ocean Alexander and others. Informa and MIASF have received more than 20 submissions for the Best of Show among new-yacht debuts.

One planned world debut is the V-55 center console from Valhalla Boatworks, a subsidiary of Viking Yacht Co. It is the flagship of the series. “There will be nothing like it,” says Viking president and CEO Pat Healey. “We’re setting a new standard by bringing together the qualities of a large center console and a luxury sportfishing yacht.”

Viking director of communications Chris Landry did warn that supply-chain issues could prevent the V-55 from making it to the show, but if that happens, a private event will be held within weeks of the show.

“Viking has always been a huge supporter of FLIBS, and the event continues to be an important one for our company in many ways,” Healey says.

Something for Everyone

This year’s show will be held at seven locations throughout Fort Lauderdale: Bahia Mar Yachting Center and neighboring Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Marina, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Pier 66 Marina, the Superyacht Village at Pier 66 South and the Broward County Convention Center. Doole says that events have been added to the convention center venue, including fishing clinics that will run all five days. There also will be fishing seminars for kids during the weekend. The Nautical Network, a nautical-themed social media brand, will be at the convention center this year, as well.

Other highlights include an opening night reception and a global business luncheon (an invitation-only event). The Concours was a new event last year, held on Friday night atop the Las Olas Parking Garage, and it will return this year. It’s geared toward automobile enthusiasts and collectors and includes a rooftop full of classic cars, collectible sneakers, live music, art and fashion, and cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

In the past, Informa partnered with NBC Sports to produce a one-hour TV special about the show. This year, there will be a new network, though show organizers had not released its name at press time.

Looking ahead, Purcell says the goal for the show is “to do all that we can so it remains the leading driver of business-to-business and business-to-consumer for domestic and international companies, as the largest in-water boat show in the world.”

In addition to FLIBS being the largest in-water boat show in the world, Purcell adds that the event’s location is important to note, since it’s the No. 1 state in the nation for boating. The Sunshine State has the highest conversion rate of population to boaters, at about 5 percent. The state also plays host to boats from other states and foreign-flagged boats; among boats coming to the United States, 70 percent come through Fort Lauderdale at Port Everglades, he says.

“As we look ahead, Florida is projected to grow by 5 million people in the coming years. Following math and trends, that’s an additional 250,000 new boaters that will be entering our industry,” Purcell says. “That’s a huge opportunity.” 

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.

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