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Ft Lauderdale show postponed

By IBI Magazine/Michael Verdon

This year's Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show has been "postponed indefinitely," according to show officials. An employee at Show Management's temporary show office confirmed to IBI that the show will be put on hold until further notice.

The official said that crews had started clean-up efforts at show sites this morning, but that there was much to be assessed. Wilma, a Category 2 hurricane with winds reaching 120 mph, pummelled South Florida yesterday morning, and left much of downtown Ft Lauderdale without windows. Local witnesses described it as a "war zone."

Major airports in the area have also been closed until further notice, which would make it difficult for visitors to attend the show. Show organisers expected about 125,000 visitors who would generate about US$600 million in sales.

US boat builders also admitted that the lost revenue would be hard to make up. "But this has to be a pleasurable experience for everyone," said Irwin Jacobs, chairman of Genmar. "But it makes no sense under the current conditions."

Jacobs said that Genmar would be willing to pay a one-time surcharge for the event this year in order to support it financially. "He has been so supportive of us over the years," Jacobs said about Show Management president Kaye Pearson. "When I spoke to him this morning, he wasn't worried about his own situation, but everyone else's business at the show."

Jacobs said that his boat companies would "take a hit" from the loss of revenues generated by Ft Lauderdale, but that there is no choice but to "step up" to the challenge. "These are situations that separate the men from the boys," he said.

Tiara CEO David Slikkers sounded a similar refrain, saying that the "impact" of no Ft Lauderdale will take "some time" to recover. "When you lose an opportunity like this, it does have an impact," he said. "Can we work through it? We don't have an option. We will have to figure it out."

Slikkers said that Ft Lauderdale and the Miami shows were the two largest for S2 Yachts, which includes the Tiara and Pursuit brands. Slikkers said he was not yet sure how the company would make up the lost revenues, but said he would be in touch with the dealer base. "Obviously, one of the issues will be follow-up communications with our dealers to get their input," he said. "We will not be doing anything in conflict with them without serious consultations."

"The Ft Lauderdale Boat Show, along with several others, is an important event on the boat show circuit," said Dustan E. McCoy, president of the Brunswick Boat Group. "The loss of any boat show is unfortunate for all of us, but the industry has proven to be resilient in all cases."

Despite the brave words, many companies will feel the sales pinch of a postponed Ft Lauderdale this year, especially after the devastating series of hurricanes that struck Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi hurt sales in those states. Slikkers said that boat show sales have been "about even" with those of last year. Brunswick has slowed production in anticipation of fewer boat orders from dealers through the fall.

The "world's largest" boat show planned to have an estimated US$1.6 billion worth of boats and equipment on display, ranging from personal watercraft to megayachts.

Local government officials say recovery is a priority and have set up distribution sites for water and food. Broward County has established a curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. until further notice.

(25 October 2005)