fort lauderdale boat show yacht lineup

FLIBS 2023: Charter demand strong and market outlook cautious but optimistic

2 November 2023 • by Katia Damborsky

Brokers and shipyard representatives have reported another successful edition of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in spite of a cooling market and an unpredictable global climate.

Sales data from Q3 showed a clear shift from a seller's market to a buyer's market, and this was reflected in the early results from the show. “I believe sellers need to be realistic and optimistic,” commented Iain Lawrie, sales broker at Merle Wood. An influx of nearly new boats on the second-hand market has driven down the demand for older boats and "you'll never beat the factory", said Lawrie. "That’s one of the problems we have suffered from having boats that are one or two years old on the brokerage market.”

The process of buying a yacht rarely concludes at a boat show, pointed out Crom Littlejohn, CCO of Northrop & Johnson. However, both he and Fraser broker James Nason noted that FLIBS' public-facing format increases the likelihood of meeting new clients who are entering into boating for the first time. "I was able to meet and form beginning relationships with several “walk-up” clients who are interested in the future purchase of large yachts," explained Nason.

Charter interest was stronger across the board, with representatives from Burgess and Northrop & Johnson noting that charter transactions were being finalised on the docks. "Our team are currently negotiating on several yachts as a direct result of FLIBS as well as a slew of yacht charters, which seems to have been particularly of interest this year," confirmed Littlejohn.

Credit: Joel Erikkson
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As ever, FLIBS represented a key opportunity for Asian shipyards to showcase their products to the US market. CL Yachts, a division of Cheoy Lee, unveiled a new yacht to the market in the form of the CLB80, buoyed by the success of the CLX96 SAV debut last year. The show remains the most "fruitful" of the year, according to Martin Lo, director of CL Yachts. "Despite what seemed like a soft market for 2023, we saw more qualified buyers than we would otherwise have expected. If FLIBS is indicative of current market conditions, then interest in yachts hasn’t diminished for 2023, and we’re optimistic for the remainder of this season," he said. 

Lo reported client interest in all three of the CL Yachts units on display at the show. "It's renewed our confidence in the market for 2023, despite obvious economic concerns due to world events," he said. 

Elsewhere, Polish shipyard Sunreef also displayed a line-up of its products at the show, including the 80 Sunreef Power Eco. Artur Poloczanski, Sunreef's PR director said that the show had given him increased confidence that the global market is pushing towards eco-yachting. "The market will continue to grow and we will see a progressive shift towards more sustainable yachts," he predicted. 

fort lauderdale boat show marina
Credit: Joel Erikkson

The Italian yachtbuilding segment, which makes up the lion's share of yachting production globally, also had a strong presence in Fort Lauderdale.  "Florida is the centre of gravity for boating in the US," pointed out Stefano de Vivo, CCO of Italian yachting giant Ferretti Group. "We've been working really hard in this market in the last four or five years." The hard work seems to have paid off, with de Vivo revealing that 50 per cent of all Pershing sales come from North America and the 60-metre Comfortably Numb was delivered to a US client earlier this year. 

Invariably, the show has acted as a "litmus test" for the season ahead, and Lawrie cautioned against using the normalising market "to change our perspective in the marketplace".