by Bob Wonders
It goes down in the books as the 70th Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail, but it will be fondly remembered as the catalyst that has led the boating industry back into the sunshine.
The Sea Isle Marina at Miami was packed with show visitors, dealers and boat builders every day, with the ability to take boats out for test a major plus for prospective buyers.
The five-day exhibition, staged at the Miami Beach Convention Centre, the Sea Isle Marina and Miamarina at Bayside, both in Miami, attracted 104,165 visitors, a massive 14% increase over the 2010 edition.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect around the show was the all-pervading feeling of confidence in boating’s future, a far cry from the ‘down at heels’ attitude that was so easily found last year.
While the attendance may have fallen well short of the Miami show record (153,400) established in 2003, the 2011 show has clearly demonstrated that the ‘good old days’ may well be on the way back.
Ben Wold, Executive Vice President of the show owner/organiser the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) was hopeful of a positive show prior to the event and told me he was ‘sincerely hoping’ for a 100,000-plus attendance.
His hopes were materialised.
Throughout the event there was a total change in attitude when compared with 2010; boat builders, marine dealers, sales staff across the board, all reported a positive response from visitors.
In addition to the ‘main event’, Miami Beach also played host to the massive Yacht and Brokerage Show, staged on a nearby tributary of the Intracoastal Waterway on Collins Street, the city’s major thoroughfare.
It all added to the carnival atmosphere which invades Miami and Miami Beach every February.
Australia’s ‘big two’, Maritimo and Riviera, both elected to display their product at the Yacht and Brokerage Show, while Seawind Catamaran was at Miamarina at Bayside.
There was no question that boats were sold across all venues, many boats together with an astonishing array of marine engines, electronics and general boating accessories and equipment.
The displays within the Miami Beach Convention Centre were of the usual high standard and there must have been many millions of dollars worth of vessels to tempt buyers.
Steve Heese, CEO of the iconic manufacturer Chris-Craft, was one who summed up the 2011 show to a tee; 'The show was busier and had a great feeling to it,' he said.
'You could tell there were more serious buyers present, not just ‘shoppers’ and new product is selling.
'I am delighted that our decision to continue investing in new product during the slow period is paying off and we’re certainly expecting a first rate year,' he added.
Rick Kubiak, from the respected manufacturer Four Winns, was even straighter to the point; 'People are buying,' he declared.
Although the attendance at Miamarina, the Strictly Sail exhibit at Bayside, exhibitors were more than happy with their appearance.
Harken’s Neil Harvey described the second day of the show (Friday) as 'the biggest day in our Miami show history.'
Beneteau’s Matthew Morrison said the show has exceeded the company’s expectations.
'We were not really expecting so much retail activity, but we’re enjoying a much better show than last year and are pleasantly surprised,' he added.
One advantage the 2011 show enjoyed over the 2010 edition was fine and mild weather.
In 2010, snow and ice was the order of the day right across the northern half of the US and many intending exhibitors and visitors were unable to make it south due to the number of airports shut down due to the conditions.
And even ‘tropical’ Miami in 2010 was the coldest I’ve experienced.
Within the vast halls of the Miami Beach Convention Centre, virtually the show headquarters, ‘muscle boats’ were stand-out highlights, with Cigarette, Fountain, MTI and Formula, along with a number of custom ‘one-offs’ attracted plenty of interest.
The outdoor area behind the massive Miami Beach Convention Centre is a show attraction in its own right with all manner of displays from boats to trailers, marina equipment to a bewildering array of nautical accessories.
Florida, after all, is ‘muscle boat country.’
Skip Braver, CEO of the legendary Cigarette Racing Team, hosted his usual spectacular display which included, for the first time, an awesome ‘Ducati Boat’, following on from last year’s ‘Mercedes AMG Boat’.
Skip suggested that if the company sold 10 boats he would declare the show an outstanding success.
I know that with one day remaining, Cigarette Racing Team had six confirmed sales and positive follow-ups on the books.
MTI (Marine Technology, Inc.) the designer/builder of a range of awesome high-performance catamarans, was able to hang the ‘sold’ sign on at least two of its stunning creations, both carrying price tags in excess of $500,000.
It remains difficult to nominate a highlight for the massive promotion of recreational boating; there were so many that would qualify as a ‘highlight.’
The NMMA, of course, uses the show to hold numerous meetings of numerous committees, in much the same manner as Australian industry associations utilise shows such as the Sydney and Sanctuary Cove International Boat Shows.
Importantly, looking back across those five days of the exhibition, the United States boating industry is looking forward and ignoring the recent global financial crisis that caused such heartache.
'We’re on the way back, no doubt about it,' Thom Dammrich, president of the NMMA declared.
The wickedly quick turbine-powered offshore racer, 'Miss Geico', again attracted plenty of interest.