Giant cruise industry conference puts spotlight on Fort Lauderdale

Seatrade conference expected to generate more than $9 million in economic impact

Fort Lauderdale will be on display next week when, for the first time, it hosts the cruise industry's largest business-to-business conference and trade show.

Seatrade Cruise Global is moving to Fort Lauderdale after three decades at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is undergoing major renovations.

An estimated 11,000 people are expected to attend March 14-17, and 5,272 room nights have been booked at the conference's nine contracted hotels, said Robyn Duda, Americas portfolio director for show organizer UBM.

"Our hotel room block is nearly booked out, and it probably will be by the end of this week," Duda said.

Hotel partners include the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Embassy Suites by Hilton 17th Street, Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel, Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach and B Ocean Resort, Fort Lauderdale.

Setup for the event will begin Wednesday at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, where most sessions are scheduled.

Sunday night, workers will begin setting up the stage, lighting and sound systems in Cruise Terminal 4 at Port Everglades for the conference's State of the Global Cruise Industry address, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. March 15.

The panel discussion will include chief executives of the world's largest cruise companies, including Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Cruises and MSC Cruises. Topics will include Cuban tourism, expansion in Asia and other issues affecting the industry.

"We're doing a lot of housekeeping to ensure we're putting our best foot forward for our visitors both local and international," said Jim Pyburn, Port Everglades' director of business development. "The conference is a great way to showcase what Broward County has to offer."

Last year's event had an economic impact of more than $8.8 million in Greater Miami, Duda said during a Port Everglades Association Inc. luncheon at the Lauderdale Yacht Club.

Historically, the conference attracts more than 800 exhibitors from 94 countries and 300 media outlets. They range from shipbuilders and global ports to providers of hotel services, entertainment, food and beverages, and information technology.

The number of social events planned by exhibitors at hotels, restaurants and other venues will equal or surpass those last year, Duda said.

"Basically anything that goes into making a ship function, they have a place or [spend] time at our show," Duda said. "It's big and it's exciting."

Overall, Seatrade Cruise Global is expected create an economic impact of more than $9 million in Broward County.

The conference will remain in Fort Lauderdale through 2018, but organizers have an option for 2019 as well.

asatchell@sunsentinel.com, Twitter@TheSatchreport

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