Top brokers react to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 2017


"Economically positive, vibrant"

The world’s biggest in-water yacht show drew to a close over the weekend (November 5), but what did it tell us about the state of the market? We caught up with some of the brokerage industry’s leading figures to get their take on the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 2017.

“This year, as I’m sure many will agree, we have found it to be a very busy show with serious prospects looking to purchase and or upgrade into bigger yachts,” remarks Mike Busacca, COO of Fraser USA. “It was certainly busier than recent years in terms of the quality and seriousness of the potential buyers.”

For this reason, Busacca called for a separate superyacht section to help separate the serious buyers from the crowds, and reported that the key clientele at this year’s show was predominantly made up of Americans looking for 45 to 55 metre yachts.

“This year’s winter charter season may have a slight set back after the hurricanes, but many in the Caribbean are of the mind set to rebuild quickly,” he adds. “Fraser will continue to educate our clients to charter in the parts of the Caribbean that have not been affected, until all is back in order in the region’s most hit by the hurricanes.”

Notable yachts for sale under the Fraser banner at FLIBS 2017 included Scout, Turquoise and Victoria Del Mar (pictured).


"Upbeat, revealing, encouraging"

Richard Lambert, head of sales at Burgess, was another who argued that this year’s Fort Lauderdale show compared favourably to previous editions. “There was a sense of a move to larger yachts than usual and also representation by a more diverse cross section of shipyards,” he said.

However, Lambert sounded a note of caution by adding: “The show appeals to such a broad cross-section of the market that this presents inherent challenges. There is still work to be done to elevate its status to a truly premium event.”

Turning to the Caribbean charter market, he concluded: “Although the level of bookings is not as high as we have witnessed in previous years in the immediate run-up to the winter season, it’s been reassuring to witness that there is still a promising market for the Caribbean this year. We have been actively engaging with our owners and charter clients in discussions about the Caribbean and we have a strong fleet confirmed for the Antigua Show.”

A joint listing with Northrop & Johnson, the 60.35 metre Feadship superyacht Rock.It (pictured above) was one of the stars of the Burgess fleet at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 2017.

Northrop & Johnson

“Upbeat and optimistic”

Kevin Merrigan, CEO of Northrop & Johnson, hailed FLIBS 2017 as the brokerage firm’s “busiest show ever”, with two yachts under agreement before the show started and additional agreements resulting from the event.

In terms of improvements, Merrigan comments: “We would like to see continued improvements of the show infrastructure and more advertising and marketing of the show in the US and abroad. The dock improvements were great and appreciated.”

A younger audience has boosted Northrop & Johnson’s charter operations, which will continue in the Caribbean this winter. “We are continually assessing the situation as communities move rapidly to open for the charter season,” he added. “The Bahamas are beautiful and ready for yachting. Antigua south to Grenada is open and ready to welcome our charter guests. This is a great opportunity for people to enjoy a quiet anchorage and help the communities.”

Northrop & Johnson’s fleet at the 2017 Fort Lauderdale show included At Last, Casino Royale (pictured above), Rock.It, Tumblehome and Starfire.

Camper & Nicholsons International

"Optimistic, positive, challenging"

“Every show takes months to confirm its success, however the mood was positive,” reports Cromwell Littlejohn, US commercial director at Camper & Nicholsons International. “The revised dates (starting on Wednesday and ending on Sunday) were very well received, with VIP Day (Wednesday) providing some of the most positive contacts of the show.”

He described the new signage and zones as “a bit confusing”, but admitted that clients and brokers will likely become accustomed to them before long.

Turning to the Caribbean, Littlejohn explains: “Charterers are eager to be provided with concrete details as to recovery status and are anxious to return as soon as it is viable.”

Camper & Nicholsons’ fleet at FLIBS 2017 included the 39.24 metre Newcastle Marine motor yacht Safira (pictured above).


“Something for everyone”

Charles Jones, a junior broker at YPI, argues that the size of FLIBS is both a strength and a weakness. “While one ticket allows entry to the whole show, FLIBS might want to consider separating the show into two sections (superyachts and smaller boats) with separate tickets. While the main portion of the show was busy, I noticed that Pier 66 was eerily quiet, and I wonder if they will continue to operate this part in future FLIBS.”

Jones added his voice to the chorus of those supporting the Caribbean charter market, saying: “Most charter boats I spoke to were heading to the Bahamas and I found that charters were still being booked to some degree.”

Photo: Forest Johnson

Denison Yacht Sales

"Strong economic indicators"

Bob Denison, president of Denison Yacht Sales, described the mood of the show as “optimistic”, calling this year’s event “one of the best FLIBS Denison has had in recent years”. Ten contracts were signed at the show by a largely American clientele.

“The show organisers did a solid job — they made it easy for exhibitors and clients to reach the docks,” he added. “Everyone loved the new mapping, zones, and labelling of docks. However, I would encourage a little more effort to make sure the yachts at Las Olas Bend get more traffic.”

Denison was upbeat about the Caribbean charter market, despite the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and cites the example of Elysian (ex-Elandess, pictured above), which has fully committed to spending the winter season in the area. “I think it may end up being one of the best comeback stories of all time for our friends in the islands,” he predicted, before adding that Denison charter enquiries at the show were double last year’s levels.

Ocean Independence

“Positive, diverse, hot”

For Toby Maclaurin, sales and marketing director at Ocean Independence, Fort Lauderdale 2017 could be summed up in three words: “Positive, diverse and hot”.

“The show was very active with existing clients, but a little slower with potential new clients for both sale and charter,” he revealed. “The trend towards more functional and less than perfect yacht finish continues, with owners becoming ever more ambitious with their cruising plans.” The 55 metre Damen yacht support vessel Axis (pictured) above was cited as a particularly popular example of this.

Maclaurin describes the Caribbean charter market as “surprisingly positive” and while many clients are keen to support the recovery of the area, others are looking at alternative destinations that were less affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Looking at the show as a whole, Maclaurin advised new organisers Informa Exhibitions to “take the best of the luxury and sophisticated elements from the Monaco Yacht Show, but leave the show bureaucracy and accessibility issues in Europe”.


“Optimistic, busy, upbeat”

“Despite some teething issues under the new management, the show can be deemed to be a success,” commented Yachtzoo’s USA team. “There was a great portfolio of yachts on display, some qualified traffic and strong interest throughout. We felt the shift of days was an excellent decision — whereas in the past the Monday was a bit of a ghost town, the new scheduling gave an additional day of relatively heavy traffic.”

Yachtzoo also called for a two-level ticketing system to help differentiate between visitors only interested in smaller boats and potential superyacht clients, who were predominantly American and younger than in previous years.

Turning to the Caribbean, the brokerage firm added: “There is a lot of uncertainty, which seems to be created by a lack of information. It is still a bit early to determine, with various marinas and establishments hustling to rebuild and reopen facilities. Many yachts are aiming to head farther south and are marketing areas such as St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. Currently the Bahamas is the favoured cruising ground this winter, with the southern Caribbean promising to be another strong alternative.”

Notable yachts for sale with Yachtzoo at FLIBS 2017 included Fae Lon, Me Gusta and SuRi (pictured).


“Optimistic, active, positive”

“The general feeling was that this year there were more serious, qualified buyers at the show, compared to what we have seen the past five years,” reports Irini Sarantis, marketing director at IYC, who is expecting plenty of positive outcomes in the months to come.

Looking at the stock of yachts for sale, Sarantis has identified a notable gap: “There were fewer recent models of 40 to 50 metres that are modern with a more modern interior; the yachts on display that fit this profile were not for sale.”

While praising the preview day initiative, she argued that FLIBS still has plenty to learn from the Monaco Yacht Show with regard to transport and premium amenities.

The changing nature of the Caribbean charter market was also flagged up by Sarantis, who added: “We are seeing more traffic in the Windward Islands than the Leeward Islands, which were typically more popular. Also, a lot of the charter traffic is shifting to the Bahamas. We expect this trend to continue for the entire season.”

The IYC fleet at FLIBS 2017 included Lionshare, Silver Lining, Skyfall and Silver Cloud (pictured above).

Thompson, Westwood & White

"A positive vibe"

Peter Thompson, managing partner at Thompson, Westwood & White Yachts, observes that while visitor numbers may be down year-on-year, the quality of clientele was more valuable.

Looking ahead at what FLIBS needs to do to retain its premium status among yacht shows, he added: “Prices need to remain reasonable for berths and companies exhibiting, and the organisers need to keep working on attracting new potential purchase and charter clients.”

Apogee, Skyfall and Atomic (pictured) were among the yachts represented by Thompson, Westwood & White at this year’s show.

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