Fort Lauderdale Boat Show goes ahead

While organisers cancelled the annual Monaco Yacht Show due to public health and safety concerns amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) has received the greenlight from South Florida officials. Always high-profile, the fast-approaching show  therefore has even more significance in 2020. A preview by Chase Jansson and Jordan Rubin, of CJC’s Miami office.

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which drew more than 100,000 people last year, will continue to be held in and around the Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale Beach on 28 October – November 1. It is set to be the first major live event to be staged in South Florida since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic after the cancellations of the Palm Beach International Boat Show and Winter Music Conference earlier this year and in the midst of a wave of cancellation announcements for upcoming events including Art Basel.

Show organizers and local officials have cited the Show’s monumental regional economic impact as their main impetus for proceeding with such a large live event in spite of public health risks. According to an economic impact study released by Informa and Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF), last year’s show generated $1.3 billion, up more than $800 million since 2015. MIASF further estimates that South Florida marine industries generates 142,000 jobs regionally, 111,000 middle class jobs in Broward County, and $8.9 billion in economic activity for Broward County annually.

Although city and county officials have repeatedly emphasized the perceived need to “balance public health versus economic health,” by all accounts, show organizers and local officials remain adamant that a zero-tolerance policy of “safety first” will be adopted for the duration of the Show.

Accordingly, show organizers have guaranteed a capacity cap of roughly 28,800 people at any given time. Additional entrances and widened docks have been added in an effort to disperse crowds and floor markers will be placed at exhibition booths avoid congregation. Face masks will be mandatory for all staff and visitors and that mandatory temperature checks will be performed up on entry. Other safety protocols include: a contactless ticketing system; electrostatic spraying and continuous sanitation; an hourly deep clean of all high touchpoints throughout the show; overnight disinfections; and social-distancing measures in cafes, concession areas, “cocktail barges” and VIP lounges.

Notwithstanding these efforts, however, show attendance is likely to be muted this year due to the pandemic. Despite the typically high return on investment for vendors and investors, many superyacht builders and yacht brokers have continued to express concern over close contact setting required to show a vessel listed for sale and many vessel owners have opted out of the boat show, meaning that a shortage of vessels on display is a real possibility.

Despite these concerns, and although they have not released an estimate as to how many attendees are expected at this year’s show, organizers have high expectations and remain confident in their ability to effectively host this event and bolster the local economy.