FLIBS Rings the Industry Bells November 17, 2014
“Strong sales. Business leads from around the world. A boost for tourism.” If we were in charge of writing the first line of news articles reporting on the outcome of the latest edition of the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, that one from the Sun-Sentinel on November 3 would likely be it. Among other accolades found in that article, exhibitors and others described their experience at the 55th edition of FLIBS as, “biggest and best,” “lots of leads,” and “This is the grand dame event for us.”
Overall attendance eclipsed the 100,000 mark, up six percent compared to 2013 and the highest it has been since 2006. Online ticket sales were up 12 percent before the show opened. And when the show did get underway to beautiful weather, the crowds bore out those expectations. Sales across product and service lines were reported strong.
Orders and deposits for retailer MarineMax at the Show were reported up double digits on top of “good growth last year,” CEO Bill McGill told Soundings Trade Only. New Sea Ray products, which have been well received at shows, as well as depletion of used and brokerage models, helped drive the turnover and increased margins on used products, McGill said
On the international front, the inaugural international luncheon, in conjunction with Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, mixed global business notables Gary Spulak of Embraer and Jorge Perez of The Related Group with regional business leaders, entrepreneurs and Broward County and City of Fort Lauderdale elected officials. The gathering on the show’s first day offered a clear picture and opportunity to remind that Southeast Florida is the premiere International Marine Hub connecting entrepreneurs from around the globe. We also heard the call to attract companies from overseas, enhance our education system, and bring in top talent that lures global companies and qualified workers to enjoy our high wage jobs.
FLIBS brings American buyers to global sellers, suggests this from Superyachts.com on November 6: The Show “pushes market activity forward moving in to the close of the year, and provides an opportunity for European brands to move further into the American market … Many industry representatives we spoke to enforced the feeling of the positivity at the show and, as always, it should not take long before we start seeing real evidence of America’s re-emergence.”
In addition to selling to North Americans, stateside and offshore firms leverage FLIBS to reach global buyers. Taiwan raised its profile at the Show, becoming a sponsor for the first time. Their officials see Fort Lauderdale as a way to reach buyers and marine leaders around the globe. “Always, the Fort Lauderdale and Miami shows are the most important shows for us,” Charles Chang, chairman of the Taiwan Yacht Industry Association told the Sun-Sentinel. “Because these are shows not only for Americans. They are for people coming from all over the world.”
Promoting marine industry careers took on a new dimension as our Job Fair moved to the Convention Center and grew in terms of interested seekers and employers. As the event opened, more than 20 marine businesses were looking to fill about 380 jobs with over 270 job seekers attending.
For local non-marine businesses, the Show did its usual economy pumping, benefitting cabbies to eateries to hotels. Hollywood-based BoatShowHotels.com, the official housing partner for the event, said it handled more than 2,000 reservations for attendees this year. That generated about 8,000 room nights at 22 hotels where it had contracts. Add in the airlines, rental car firms and others and that’s where “Super Bowl” spending figures take shape.
As we bask in the glow of the successful Show just wrapped up, the industry needs to remain alert and welcoming to compete for domestic and international business. Leveraging the show and our day-to-day efforts for broadening business will require long-term teamwork among marine interests, government, business, consulates and others. One of the ways to do this is to be more collaborative. That is a goal to be worked on throughout the year and accentuated at our successful boat show. Read more about these initiatives in this newsletter.
Thank you to all who set the high mark for this year’s FLIBS. It was, by literally all measures, a wonderful success.