Lauderdale show sees boost in attendance

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Attendance at this year's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which concluded Monday, ran about 5 to 6 percent ahead of last year, show organizers told Soundings Trade Only.

Additionally, exhibitors reported strong interest from the crowds, with many touting large increases in the number of boats sold at the show, compared with the past few years.

"The attendance was up strongly the first three days of the show - Thursday, Friday, Saturday - Saturday itself was up about 23 percent, Thursday and Friday were up less," said Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III, president and CEO of Show Management. "Sunday was down quite a bit because of the rain, and Monday was down a little bit. But overall we ended up 5 to 6 percent on attendance."

Show Management does not release specific attendance figures.

Zimbalist said he heard good reports from exhibitors, many of whom called it the best show in at least three years. There were 1,087 exhibitors this year - up from 2009.

"We thought we had a shot from the exhibitor side of things to be flat with last year and we ended up, I think, up 5 percent in numbers and in dollars from last year, which was terrific, especially given the fact that we didn't have Pier 66 this year. But we did have the Sails property where Cakewalk [the U.S.-built, 281-foot yacht] was, so that kind of compensated for Pier 66," he said.

Many exhibitors who spoke with Soundings Trade Only said they, too, saw a more upbeat consumer walking around the show.

"They were definitely in a more positive mood about shopping for new models and new boats," said David Hensel, brand and marketing director for Grand Banks Yachts. "They were lining up at the show - literally - to get on board our boats. Last year on Thursday when the gates opened, people started to trickle down the docks, and it was slow.