Monday, February 17

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A Look Back at Miami: Let’s Hear It for the NMMA and Virginia Key

I haven’t seen such an upbeat boat show in many years – probably before 2008, in fact. At the Miami International Boat Show last week on Virginia Key the docks were crowded, people were having fun, taking demo rides, buying boats. It wasn’t as if they didn’t have enough to choose from. Indeed, the show had 1,300 new boats for sale, including 550 in the water: big boats, small boats, outboard boats, inboard boats. If it floats it was there. And people were happy. Several told me they got in a good mood just riding to the show in the water taxis.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, which runs the show, learned from last year, the first on Virginia Key, when transportation was a problem, so they added more (and larger) water taxis and buses coming from Miami. Even a seaplane taxied up to a dock to drop people off, although it wasn’t provided by the NMMA.

Thom Dammrich, the president of the NMMA, started the show on a high note. “Consumer confidence is at a 10-year high,” he said. “Real disposable income continues to grow. Consumer spending continues to grow. Gasoline prices remain low. We’ve got two, two-and-a-half years of real prosperity ahead.”

On the docks, people took that to heart. Bentley Collins, vice president of Sabre and Back Cove Yachts, said that “show attendance was awesome” and “sales activity was very strong,” particularly in the 37- to 42-foot range, where the company has several models. In the middle of the show, the Ranger Tugs/Cutwater Boats display, with many models of both lines in the water, seemed to be crowded all the time.

And Chris Hughes, a partner at MJM Yachts, said the Virginia Key location “was almost ideal. The large number of sea trials is a win-win for builders and boaters.” He also reported “overwhelming enthusiasm” for the new MJM 35z, with twin outboards, as “the perfect luxury family boat.”

Up at the Yachts Miami Beach show on Collins Avenue, which charged $20 admission for the first time, the crowds were down, but some builders reported they had serious buyers. Tracy Hess Burgess, marketing director for Outer Reef Yachts, for example, said it was “a strong show for us,” with less overall traffic “but those who visited were more qualified than in previous years.” All in all, a good way to start the new season.







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