From the Captain’s Chair: A Brief History of FLIBS September 26, 2018
As we prepare for the 59th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show with an estimated 1,200 exhibitors and 1,500 boats at seven locations, it’s hard to imagine that it started out with just 13 exhibitors back in 1959 when MIASF called for local manufacturers to showcase their boats at Lauderdale Marina. In its second year, FLIBS moved to Pier 66 and was advertised via a floating billboard that traveled back and forth to New England. Over the years, the show moved and grew steadily and by 1976 it boasted about 200 boats, which is when Kaye Pearson founded Show Management and began promoting the show.
Immediately, the dates were moved to when the manufacturers released the new models in the fall and the show was moved to Bahia Mar, setting the stage for decades of successful growth. Eventually, Show Management was acquired by Active Interest Media’s founder, Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist, who sold it to Informa Exhibitions in 2017.
MIASF has enjoyed a close relationship with each of its different partners, as they brought new opportunities and built the show on previous successes, turning a local city show into an international sensation. It seems appropriate that what has become the largest in-water boat show in the world is now partnered with the largest global exhibition company in the world.
Despite that tremendous success, which significantly influences the City, County, and State with an $857 million annual impact, FLIBS and the marine industry can continue to grow and offer more opportunity through increasing its participating vessels and entrepreneurs.
Obviously, Florida has evolved over time, as well, advancing from a true seasonal cycle to the third largest state in the nation and the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the southeast. Additionally, its population of 19 million is expected to reach 25 million in the next decade. With the third largest barrier coral reef off its’ southeast coast, Florida leads the nation in boat registrations of approximately one million. Simple math suggests Florida’s impending growth is good for the future of our industry.
That said, it is still extremely important for us be amenable to change in order to thrive. We must continue to be great collaborators by partnering with all levels of government, with community leaders, and with other impactful industries to ensure no harm comes to us and we remain an economic force for decades to come.