by Bob Wonders
Miami International Boat Show (February 17-21) - It may not be the largest boating exhibition in the world (Düsseldorf takes that honour) and it’s not even the largest in the United States, with Fort Lauderdale emerging victorious.
Miami claims it is the world’s cruising capital. With ships like these arriving and departing daily, who’s to argue?
Nevertheless, Miami remains vitally important to the boating industry, not only within the United States, but to a slightly lesser extent the industry worldwide.
The Asia-Pacific's Powerboat-world.com editor Bob Wonders has been attending this show for a quarter of a centuary. Here is his take on the event.
For the United States boating industry, Miami is the show where dealers, brokers and retailers do business with boat builders, importers and distributors; Miami is the show where the industry’s leaders unveil new products, reveal new plans, announce new directions.
Last year, the show suffered from a combination of the on-going effects of the 2009/10 global financial crisis and a 'big freeze' which swept down on America’s north eastern region.
Now Miami, situated almost as far south as one can go and remain on the mainland, is anything but north east, however the weather did have a serious side.
Many airports and highways were closed and many industry representatives scheduled to be on duty at the show were unable to make the journey.
That also applied to product; I was there at the time and I heard of several instances related to new boats and, in one case, a new yet-to-be-launched engine, that missed the show altogether due to the weather.
As the calendar for 2011 opens, we again see America’s eastern seaboard ‘ under assault’ from that man Jack Frost, with some states receiving record snowfalls.
I am hoping this is an early arrival of last year’s February freeze and that February 2011 will not be quite so bad.
If you’re wondering how bad 2010 was, consider this; I’ve never actually kept count of how many Miami shows I’ve attended, probably 20 or so, and 2010 was the first time I have ever had to buy something to keep me warm.
I’ll be holed up in Miami by February 12 or so and looking forward, hopefully, to some sunshine.
The United States boating industry for a start could definitely use some, sunshine, that is.
I think most Australians realise that for whatever reason one may care to dwell on, the US was hit much harder by the economic downturn than was the case for the land down under.
One prominent American has labelled US business as 'A recession-racked economy.'
Reports from the US industry indicate boat sales have again fallen off, with figures in decline across all market segments.
Some of the statistics unearthed could best be described as 'alarming.'
For example, sales of fibreglass boats in the 14’ to 30’ (4.26 to 9.14-metres) range have fallen almost 30 percent across 46 US states representing 95 percent of that country’s boat market.
Perhaps even more alarming, sales of boats larger than 30’ (9.14-metres) has crashed by more than 40 percent; other market segments to show poor returns included personal water craft (down 21.1 percent), deck boats (often called party pontoons in Australia), down 39.8 percent, ski and wake boat sales, down 21.1 percent.
Overall, the fibreglass boat market declined 24.2 percent; the aluminium breed proved tougher, falling only 3.5 percent.
Miami may not be the world’s most important recreational boating exhibition, but its importance should never be underestimated.
The leading lights of boat manufacture and design from across the United States, from Europe, South America, Asia and Australia will be there as usual and anyone with a shred of interest in the industry will be hoping all do well.
Miami, 2011, will mark the 70th staging of the show, which began in 1941 under a marquee in an area known these days as Bayside; it attracted 50 exhibitors, an almost laughable figure compared to the more than 2500 exhibitors of recent years.
Coincidentally, Bayside, not as large, but in many ways similar to Sydney’s Darling Harbour, venue of the Sydney International Boat Show, is still in use today as the venue for one segment of the Miami extravaganza, ‘Strictly Sail Miami’.
Show headquarters (since the 1960s) is the Miami Beach Convention Centre, a vast facility with more than 'one million square feet' of exhibition space; I recall walking into a show some years ago and was dumb founded to sight a 60’ Hatteras convertible with full tuna tower and outriggers dominating the hall.
In 1984, the show as purchased from its originators by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which 12 months later added another venue in the Marriott Hotel location on Biscayne Bay and again, in 1986, added the Sailboat segment.
These days, there are virtually four venues making up the Miami International Boat Show; the convention centre, the Sea Isle Marina (Marriott Hotel), Miami Bayside and the massive brokerage show on Collins Avenue.
Although not 'officially' a component of the Miami International Boat Show, the Yacht and Brokerage Show, to give it its correct ‘handle’, is seen by show visitors as a part of the show well worth visiting; Australian manufacturers, Maritimo and Riviera, both display their product at the brokerage show.
Free shuttle buses and water taxis operate all day and every day of the show, taking patrons from various park and ride facilities and to and from the different venues.
Believe me, it’s a boat show worth seeing.
If you’re unable to join me, don’t despair, there’ll be a full report on all aspects of the 2011 Miami International Boat Show right here on Powerboat-World.