The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is less than three weeks from dropping anchor, and organizers say they'll welcome visitors aboard with new and unique exhibits, revamped or bigger exhibit layouts, and more food and beverage options.
"We've picked up a lot more exhibitors this year," said Andrew Doole, a senior vice president with Show Management, the manager and producer of the 54th annual event that runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 at six Fort Lauderdale sites. "From small-boat to midrange to superyacht, every segment has increased its presence at this year's show."
Advance sales of show tickets are also up compared with this time last year, he added.
Billed as the largest in-water boat show in the world, last year's event attracted more than 1,200 exhibitors showcasing $3 billion-plus worth of boats, yachts, superyachts, electronics and marine accessories on display.
The show, which is owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, has grown into a $500 million economic engine, benefiting not only the trade group's members but also area hotels, restaurants and transportation companies.
At the show's Las Olas Marina location, additional slips will be installed to accommodate increased demand by yacht brokers displaying used boats in the 80- to 120-foot range, Doole said.
A new Sailfish Pavilion, a more than 90,000-square-foot space in the north parking lot of the Broward County Convention Center, will be devoted to small-boat exhibitors. In addition to boats 15 to 40 feet in length, the pavilion will feature marine accessories, a pond for daily fishing demonstrations, and a LandShark-branded bar and eatery.
"We expect the 2013 show to be bigger than it's been in the last few years," said Mark Gatley, the convention center's general manager.
For a few years during and after the recession, the boat show occupied only the convention center's main exhibition hall. Gatley said the improving economy is slowly changing that, pointing to the new outdoor venue.
Organizers say a certain head-turner this year will be SeaFair, a 228-foot, $40 million luxury "exhibition yacht" that will be docked at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. SeaFair, which visits cities in Florida and elsewhere along the East Coast, will feature fine art and jewelry displays, and designs for yachts and homes in a club-like atmosphere. It will also offer a 120-seat restaurant and several cocktail lounges.
The yacht will be the centerpiece of The Club at SeaFair, a venue sponsored by Yachts International magazine. The five-story yacht will host the show's kick-off parties, daily receptions and other events for special guests and VIPs.
"SeaFair was a perfect fit as a unique luxury experience for the boat show," said Tina Margherio, director of marketing for Expoships, which owns SeaFair. Show organizers were seeking a different VIP offering this year, she noted.
Also at Bahia Mar, visitors can check out boats manufactured by Sea Ray without fighting South Florida's heat. The vessels will be showcased in-water within an enclosed, air-conditioned tent.
Meanwhile, the space for oversized, million-dollar vessels dubbed the Superyacht Experience will be even bigger this year.
Other show sites include the Hall of Fame Marina, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina and the Sails Marina. The six exhibition sites will be linked by a land and water transportation network.
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If You Go
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
For opening day, Prime Time Preview adult tickets cost $36 online or $38 on site. General admission tickets for Friday through Monday cost $20 online and $22 on site for adults, $7 for children ages 6-15. Children under 6 are free.
For more information, see showmanagement.com.