FLIBS attendance down

FORT LAUDERDALE – With Florida’s housing market in rough shape and its boating business similarly hard hit, few would expect the fall and winter boat shows to match or exceed the past few year’s results.

Taken in that light, conditions at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which ended Monday, were surprisingly good. While the weather made for a Friday that was “almost a complete wipeout,” exhibitors had a good Saturday, a pretty strong Sunday and a typical Monday, according to Andrew Doole, vice president of boat show producer Show Management.

At the end of the show’s run, attendance was down 5 to 7 percent, which he pointed out “isn’t bad considering the weather and the economic climate.”

Those consumers who did attend had some new tools at their disposal this year, Doole stated in an interview this morning. Show Management launched a new Web site for the Fort Lauderdale show that allows attendees to better plan their show experience and introduced e-tickets for the first time.

For exhibitors, new products were key

Despite a slight decrease in attendance, many exhibitors did better than they expected, particularly those who brought new products to the show, said Doole.

Carver, Sea Ray, Tiara and Ocean Alexander, in particular, reported very good sales, some of which were in excess of the previous year. And Ferrett Group had “a spectacular show,” he reported.

As one might expect, the megayacht end of the market – which is insulated from much of the impact of economic ups and downs – was “very buoyant,” said Doole, which had a positive impact not only on the boat builders, but also the many suppliers that serve them.

Economic conditions impact show organizers too. But because “most manufacturers and dealers” feel Fort Lauderdale is a show at which they need to exhibit – with more than 90 percent renewing each year – Show Management’s job producing the show hasn’t changed a lot this year, according to Doole. He pointed out that the company might need to work a little harder to sell exhibit space at some of the smaller shows it manages.

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