Success: Fort Lauderdale Boat Show brings sales, contacts, tourists

Strong sales. Business leads from around the world. A boost for tourism.

Those were some results that participants cited from the 55th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that ended Monday. Exhibitors and attendees called the five-day extravaganza a success.

For industry veteran Rick Augusto, sales manager of Nautical Ventures Group, this year’s show was the “biggest and best” yet for his Dania Beach-based group.

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Nautical Ventures created 21 displays, their most ever, and racked up strong sales for its growing line of products that range from paddleboards to big motorboats, he said.

“It exceeded our expectations,” said Augusto, whose group organized a sprawling pool area for the first time to showcase kayaks, paddleboards and small motorboats for families not seeking super-yachts.

Robert Ghetti, owner of Canadian Electric Boat Co., said he came to the show to find potential distributors for his silent, eco-friendly boats. He’s leaving with “lots of leads” from places as far-flung as Greece, Mexico, Germany, California and New York City.

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Some attendees flew in just for the event that spread to seven venues this year.

Bill Zeiser of Rochester, N.Y. said he’s long read about the show in boating magazines and decided this year to attend with his wife during a week’s vacation. The couple enjoyed the diverse offerings so much that they plan to return and even are mulling purchasing a time-share in South Florida.

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“Everything is here at the show, from the impressive yachts to the innovations,” Zeiser said. One idea he picked up and plans to use on his 35-foot Sea Ray: Mounting the TV on a closet door to save space.

Hollywood-based BoatShowHotels.com, the official housing partner for the event, handled more than 2,000 reservations for attendees this year. That generated about 8,000 room nights at 22 hotels where it had contracts, according to chief operating officer Jeff Delmay.

“This is the grand dame event for us; our first child and our favorite,” said Delmay. “We’ve worked hard to develop the business, and as the boat show grows, so does our business.”

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau promoted Broward County tourism too with its first-ever destination pavilion at the show. It gave out about 650 “Hello Sunny” tote bags with a destination map, a pair of sunglasses and information on local attractions as of early Monday afternoon.

Final attendance numbers are still being tallied, but organizers had forecasted increased attendance at more than 100,000 people this year. Online ticket sales were up 12 percent before the show opened Thursday.

Sunny weather, an improving U.S. economy and lower gas prices also gave a boost this year, said Phil Purcell, executive director of Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the boat show’s owner.

“The show,” said Purcell, “was a wonderful success.”

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel


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