By Dorie Cox
On opening day, at a crowded corner dock off the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, Florida, Chris Saumsiegle dodged visitors. He said the Palm Beach International Boat show is a favorite.
“In the first two hours and 15 minutes, the traffic was up over other shows,” said the yacht broker with Bradford Marine. “We do all the shows. Miami used to be my favorite and Fort Lauderdale, but it’s just at a weird time before the holidays.”
The Palm Beach show tops the boat show list of Bradford’s company’s vice president of yacht service, Jimmy Floyd, too. Floyd has attended boat shows for decades. He connects with innumerable clients, vendors and prospects at all shows, but he especially enjoys this one. The Palm Beach show is comfortable, easy to get to, and visitors like it, he said.
“I love this show, it is the right size,” Floyd said and compared it with some of the larger shows. “Bigger is not always better.”
The appeal has spread across the Atlantic. Last year’s show saw more exhibits from European boat builders, and the trend continues this year. Italian boat builders Perini Navi and Rosetti Superyachts are on exhibit for the first time, as well as German shipbuilder Lurssen. Dutch builder Feadship is back after its premier last year as well as Damen-Amels.
Several other builders have taken advantage of the center dock section, dubbed the Superyacht Villas area, including Dutch builder Heesen. The company exhibits at shows in Dubai, Singapore, Fort Lauderdale and Monaco, and started exhibiting at the Palm Beach show about three years ago. Thom Conboy is director of sales in North America, Mexico, Bahamas and Caribbean, and he said that compared to the other shows, this one is different, but good.
“So far today we’ve had 10 viewings and three are strong,” Conboy said during the afternoon of opening day. “In Fort Lauderdale, we would have had 40 or 50 viewings, but these people are very good.”
He attributes much of the enthusiasm for the Palm Beach show to the clientele supported by the location, considered Florida’s wealthiest county, and he pointed to a study put together by Rybovich, a nearby shipyard that hosts several yachts in the show that cannot fit within the confines of the official show on the ICW.
“Statistically, there are more 40m-plus boats in Palm Beach County year round,” Conboy said. “It is second to Monaco and Barcelona. That alone sort of tells the story.”
Lurssen Americas Director Timothy Hamilton said the show is growing and gaining in importance.
“This show has more promise than the Fort Lauderdale show, primarily because of the client experience,” Hamilton said. “They enjoy the laid-back nature of the show, the better weather this time of year, plus things like the valet and upscale restaurants and hotels nearby.”
Some of the value is centered around clients from the United States.
“This show is starting to see more big American yacht buyers,” he said. “This is a place they like to come and many of them already live here. It’s strategic, taking place toward the end of the season when people are getting ready for summer, when they think about doing business.
“Everyone loves this show, industry and clients included,” Hamilton said.
Although Damen-Amels did not bring a boat to this year’s show, Jan W. van Hogerwou, general manager of the company’s North America division, said the company’s pavilion in the Superyacht Villas area is attracting attention.
“This is a controllable busy,” van Hogerwou said on opening day. “We can take time to talk to each person. The questions are high quality.”
U.S.-based builder Burger Boat Company has exhibited at the Palm Beach show for more than 10 years, with four of those in the Superyacht Villas area, said Ron Cleveringa, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. He agrees that the location defines the show.
“It’s a nice show, it’s a nice community,” Cleveringa said. “It’s really easy access for guests and for us. We like to be here and see other builders.”
He said the builder-focused Superyacht Villas area is a highlight at the show, and his company is thrilled to see fellow builders exhibiting there, including U.S. builder Lyman-Morse of Maine.
“It helps bring the clients,” Cleveringa said. “I’m glad this show gave builders a place to stand out.”
Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.