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Posted on Nov 3, 2009 in Next Cast
Boat Show a Bellwether?

Lauderdale event's 50th year boosts hopes for boaters

Today's economy still feels like a tight band around the chest - no one can really breathe easily. So when events like this past week's 50th Anniversary Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) put the marine industry on display, everyone starts looking for signs of relief. Thankfully, we saw some.

Advance ticket sales were up 20 percent over 2008, according to stats given at a pre-show press conference. Post-show comments suggested traffic was light but that attendance was "quality." FLIBS generally attracts about 100,000 attendees from all over the world.

Amid the booth chatter on Friday, marine-accessories dealers talked about brisk early sales. Boat manufacturers at the Bahia Mar site (considered the home base among FLIBS' six locations) marveled at the healthy crowds walking the docks. And indeed, even the weekday throngs made it difficult for editors to find and talk with our usual information sources.

Weather favored the show this year with bright skies and warm temperatures. That may have driven more attendees to the open-air Bahia Mar location rather than the indoor booths at the Broward County Convention Center, The number of convention-center exhibitors had dropped (though several simply moved to Bahia Mar.)

A handful of boat manufacturers brought new hulls to the show, including Scout, Boston Whaler, Yellowfin, Sea Vee, Contender, Edgewater and Hell's Bay. Outboard companies introduced - quietly - several smaller horsepower models developed during 2009: 125 Mercury Optimax, Honda BF60, Suzuki DF60A and Yamaha T25/F25. (Stay tuned for a major Yamaha rollout!)

Marine electronics companies showed strength with new or recently debuted Raymarine, Furuno, Simrad, Lowrance and Humminbird units plus product from safety companies such as ACR, makers of EPIRBs and PLBs, and SPOT, which introduced a new satellite-based security, recovery and messaging product.

You'll see more on these new offerings in the pages of our January issue - our traditional Boat Buyers Source Book - and in late winter/spring SF magazines. And if you couldn't make the Fort Lauderdale boat show, the Miami show is right around the corner: February 11-15.

The bright news: Trepidation seems to be waning...AND there are some true bargains to be had.