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Miami International Boat Show opens Feb. 16

Promoters hope for a boost from those who missed the Fort Lauderdale show because of Wilma

Promoters hope for a boost from those who missed the Fort Lauderdale show because of Wilma

Thank Hurricane Wilma if the Miami International Boat Show gets a boost from more serious buyers and more hungry salesmen making deals during the 65th annual show, Feb. 16 to 20.

Wilma blew away a lot of folks’ plans to buy and sell boats at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November. Valiant as the effort was to pull the show back together, attendance was down — show-goers were cautious about venturing into the city two weeks after a major hurricane — and many dealers reported slow sales.

“It’s hard to tell at this point what’s going to happen,” says Cathy Johnston, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s vice president of Southern shows and a manager of the Miami show. But experience suggests that the show could gain some sales from the disruption that Wilma caused the Lauderdale show and from boat losses in the Gulf States due to Wilma, Rita and Katrina. Last February, after four hurricanes in South Florida, the Miami show saw an upward blip in attendance, especially from points north of Palm Beach, where a lot of hurricane-related boat damage occurred, says Johnston.

She says shopping for replacements for hurricane-damaged boats depends heavily on how fast boat owners get their insurance checks. “We think we’ll capture some of these folks again,” she says. Miami also may get some serious prospects who planned to shop at the Lauderdale show but passed on it because of Wilma.

Johnston says a lot of dealers are champing at the bit to sell boats at Miami after falling behind in their sales goals because of tepid sales in Fort Lauderdale. Johnston also hopes to see a continuing uptick in visitors from Latin America. “That was very strong for us last year,” she says. She expects to see some show-goers from Latin America and Europe who had to cancel out of Lauderdale because of the changed dates but are still in the market to buy.

On the down side, local schools have designated Monday, Feb. 20 — Presidents Day — a makeup day for students who got to stay home for a week or two after Wilma. She says this either could hurt Monday show attendance or boost weekend attendance.

Attendance last year at the Miami show was 145,355. Johnston expects 150,000 attendees this year. The show draws 2,600 exhibitors and displays 3,000 boats costing anywhere from $1,000 to $5 million and ranging in size from 6 to 83 feet.

Most of the land-side powerboat displays are at the Miami Beach Convention Center; the in-water powerboats at the Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center, formerly the Sealine Marina; and Strictly Sail, the sailboat displays, at Miamarina at Bayside Marketplace. The show has become known among anglers for its Big Game Room, the nation’s largest big-game fishing exposition. New this year will be a Shallow Water Room featuring displays of shoal-water fishing gear.

Admission is $15 for adults, children under 12 free. A two-day pass is $26, and admission on Thursday, when the show usually is least crowded, is $28. Admission to Sea Isle is free.