This Just In

World’s Largest Boat Show Opens in Fort Lauderdale; Set to Emerge Stronger and Safer

Andrea Doyle, Senior News Editor
From left: Andrew Doole, President, U.S. Boat Shows, Informa Markets; Mayor Dean Trantalis, City of Fort Lauderdale; Mayor Dale Holness, Broward County; Stacy Ritter, President/CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau; Steven Glassman, Vice Mayor/Commissioner; Phil Purcell, CEO/President Marine Industries Association of South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA — COVID-19 has brought the events industry to its knees, but a beacon of light shines bright — the 61st Annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), which starts October 28 and runs through November 1.

Organizing a mega show of this caliber during a pandemic was no easy feat. It was a collaboration between the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF), owners of FLIBS, along with show producer Informa U.S. Boat Shows, and government officials in both Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Demonstrating the extensive health and safety protocols that Informa Markets developed through their AllSecure program as well as utilizing heightened preventive measures developed by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) was a crucial step in working the state and local health officials to open the show which serves as an important business event in the boating industry.

“Informa is extremely proud to produce the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, the first major trade show event in America since the pandemic started. To those exhibitors and attendees who supported the event, all we can say is ‘thank you’ for what we know has been a difficult time. Our team in South Florida is proud to lead the way with our new motto, ‘Emerge Stronger; Emerge Safe,’” said Ken McAvoy, Executive Vice President-Corporate Development, Informa Markets.

This show will be the shot in the arm the region needs, as the 2019 show generated $1.3 billion in economic impact.

Although this year’s show looks different, it is still an important marketplace for yacht sales. “It’s the meeting face-to-face and seeing the product in person instead of just looking at it online that is important,” said Andrew Doole, President of Informa Markets U.S. Boats Shows. Advanced ticket sales were doing well, he added. “Many have flown in for the show, and we anticipate the domestic attendance to be strong as well.”

Needless to say, the hotels and the restaurants in the area are excited about the influx of visitors, especially during a time like this. “The city is ecstatic that we are doing the event,” Doole adds. It has been a very involved undertaking. “We have been working with the city and the county, using GBAC regulations, and had to abide by a 62-page health and safety document that includes all the protocols we had to put in place,” Doole said.

With 80 percent of the show taking place in open-air outdoor spaces, this design works well in a COVID-19 world.

“Working with Informa management, who developed the All Secure plan based on the Global Risk Advisory Council (GBAC) certified programs, we can mitigate the risks of today’s illness not only for FLIBS but for any event,” said Rick Simon, President and CEO of United Services Company and Chairman of Trade Show Executive Media. “Add to the fact that United is providing thermal imaging cameras to monitor people’s temperature as they enter; nightly disinfection of the entire property will occur; hand sanitizer will be provided in abundance; everyone is required to wear a face covering and practice social distance measure; and most of this event is outdoors in the sunlight, it is about as safe as you can be.”

In accordance with this health and safety plan, there were electronic tickets to help reduce contact with other people, mandatory masks, wider docks in high traffic areas, and seven waterfront locations accessible from 16 entrances, lessening pinch-points and foot traffic. FLIBS also increased its six miles of floating docks to widths up to 30 feet to ensure proper spacing and social distancing. As a result, there will be 500 yachts in the water this year, instead of the 800 in years past.

In addition, AllSecure’s new safety protocols will include enhanced deep cleaning before, during and after each day’s events, with overnight disinfection; electrostatic sprayers with EPA biodegradable disinfectants; and continuous sanitation throughout the show, focusing on high-touch areas including door handles, restrooms, and food and beverage areas. Additional hand sanitizing stations will be found throughout the event, as well as digital instead of printed materials.“I think many of these protocols will stay in place for the foreseeable future. It’s all about ensuring safety for our attendees, exhibitors and staff.  That is good business and the FLIB’s team is doing an amazing job of making that happen,” Rick McConnell, President of North America, Informa Markets, said.

Related: Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Stays on Course with County and City Support 

New this year is the VIP pass, which allows entry into the show two hours early. “They can see the show when there’s really no one there. This will be available all five days, and VIP guests will have their own entrance and can make one-on-one appointments,” Doole explained.

NBC Sports Network will air a one-hour special on the Show at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1.

“We can find ways to safely coexist with the virus by implementing safeguards to protect people from contracting or spreading the disease,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. “At the end of the weekend, we will have had a very successful show that proves to the world we can have events such as this safely.”

Related: For a more in-depth look at how show management worked with local and state government to gain support and permission to open the world’s largest boat show, FLIBS, be sure to check out the December issue of Trade Show Executive.

Reach Andrew Doole at (954) 764-7642 or; Rick Simon at (800) 248-8558 or; Ken McAvoy, (203) 500-1951 or; or Rick McConnell, (214) 693-0672 or


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