International boat shows regain market punch April 18, 2015

A confluence of improving economies, higher employment with rising wages and boatloads of new products being offered by builders and other marine manufacturers is tugging consumers to global boat shows and putting the productions back in the sweet spot of industry marketing efforts. The truly international and stalwart events – those in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Dusseldorf, Monaco, Singapore and Dubai – are rallying by bringing “one-stop shopping” to a reenergized boating public while adding features and improvements. And newly emerging events are said to be gaining steam.

Though not universal in growth or recovery, due to country- or region-specific economic or market headwinds, boat shows continue to serve the industry as powerful promotional and sales tools. There have been mergers for some shows and cancellations or postponements, which have changed the offerings and potentially strengthened some survivors.

Ed Slack, an observer of the international show scene and editor of International Boat Industry magazine, says, “I think generally there’s been something of a shakedown since 2008 and the market nosedived. Back then there were a lot of shows doing pretty well, a big number of them claiming to be international, when builders could afford to ship product safe in the knowledge it would sell. What we’ve seen lately is key shows getting stronger, becoming hubs if you will, and the occasional new kid on the block, some of which are going great guns.”

Slack adds, “The mood around many of the shows is more upbeat now than in the last four or five years. Business is being done. I think the organizers and exhibitors have gotten used to lower numbers of attendees … Ten years ago there was always the drive to draw the biggest crowd. Now I hear the words ‘quality not quantity’ a lot.”

For the major producers, including Show Management in Fort Lauderdale, keeping the shows fresh and engaged with consumers and the industry is a continual effort. Show Management President Skip Zimbalist says attendees are surveyed to identify what they like about the events and how they might be improved. “The number one reason people attend the boat shows is to have fun, which translates to easy access to what they want to do: see a wide selection of product, enjoy the show ambience of food and entertainment, or simply to people watch.”

On the structural side, he noted pushing FLIBS back a week into November this year moves it farther out of hurricane season and provides more time for exhibitors who participate in Monaco, just before Lauderdale, to move boats from there to the U.S.

With the talent, experience, resources and know-how of creating engaging shows, there’s interest in expanding the reach of both the producers’ efforts and the industry served. Zimbalist points to the Panama Boat Show, the second annual event to be held May 29 to 31, as an example. “We saw the need in Central America for a world-class boat show, and Panama fit the bill. The country is growing and stable, a known destination because of the Panama Canal, the currency is denominated in U.S. dollars, there is no oppressive duty on boat sales compared to nearby countries, and we found a partner with a beautiful marina to host the show.” He adds that people can afford boats there, resulting in an active sportfishing community that draws local boaters plus others from neighboring countries.

Statistics on shows produced by members of the International Federation of Boat Show Organizers count the top ten in terms of visitors (numbers provided by the organizers) as:

For the complete list of IFSBO member shows, visit For a global listing of boat shows, dates, venues and links to organizers, visit

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