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Exploring The Historical Ties Between The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show And Bahia Mar

In addition to the financial benefits the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show brings to the community, the event is also deep-rooted with historical ties to many Fort Lauderdale establishments, like the Bahia Mar—the event’s official host, which is receiving a noteable facelift in time for November.

More than 1,000 exhibitors from 30 countries showcasing $4 billion worth of superyachts, 1,500 watercrafts of all kinds, floating cocktail lounges, live music, water sports demonstrations and marine-themed art and jewelry—all displayed across more than 3 million square feet of exhibit space right on the water. That is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. 

Known as “the Yachting Capital of the World,” Fort Lauderdale will host the 58th annual FLIBS, the world’s largest in-water boat show of its kind, from Nov. 1 to 5. The event, which attracts a global audience of more than 100,000 people each year, is the go-to place for yacht buyers and sellers from around the world. And while Fort Lauderdale has hosted the show since the late ’50s, this year’s event will welcome a major change in scenery. 

Nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the iconic Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has been home to the boat show since 1976. Boasting an adjacent 250-slip marina, more than 4 miles of floating docks, a recent Foreign-Trade Zone designation and the ability to connect to neighboring marinas, this waterfront property is the perfect spot to serve as the centerpiece of the FLIBS—and that’s where it will stay. 

In June, the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the boat show’s owner, and Informa Exhibitions, the producer, signed a 30-year lease extension with the operators of Bahia Mar to keep the event at the site through 2050. 

“We’re really a location that can be transformed into something completely different,” says Megan Lagasse, Bahia Mar Marina general manager. 

Each year, Bahia Mar and the show’s neighboring seven locations undergo a metamorphosis during the month leading up to the FLIBS, where they convene to create a vibrant marketplace right along the beautiful Fort Lauderdale waterways, which contributes about $857 million annually to the overall economy in the state of Florida. 

“The economic impact of FLIBS dwarfs a Super Bowl, and it happens every year, contributing to the sustainability of 136,000 marine industry jobs and $11.5 billion to the economy in the region,” says Andrew Doole, general manager of Informa Exhibitions.

Bahia Mar Beach Resort
Rendering of a king bed guest room at the Bahia Mar.

This year, Bahia Mar’s transformation will impress guests as it’s set to unveil a $7 million redesign just in time for the boat show. The new look, inspired by the ocean and the city’s nautical lifestyle, will feature a modern, upscale design with a blue and white color scheme that will seamlessly transition from the exterior, to the 181 guest rooms, meeting spaces, ballrooms and common areas. 

Upon entering the updated atrium, guests will be mesmerized by the sleek staircase highlighted by a custom chandelier, warm wood accents and chrome finishings. Stepping off the elevators, visitors will notice updated carpeting, bright beach-themed artwork and modern slate-gray wood tiling that will continue into the guest rooms featuring dramatic floor-to-ceiling custom headboards, sumptuous accents and updated furniture. 

Additionally, the ballrooms and meeting spaces will include ocean-influenced carpeting, exquisite light fixtures, classic, chic colors and new furniture. 

“The changes are very noticeable,” says Bahia Mar General Manager Bill Cunningham. “We have a lot of repeat guests, so when those people come back they’re going to go ‘wow’ and see the difference.”

The current redesign is the first stage of James ‘Jimmy’ Tate’s plans for the property to ensure it’s the most desirable destination in Fort Lauderdale. The Bahia Mar co-owner and CEO of Tate Capital’s vision for the site follows the $3 million marina wing renovation in 2015. 

“I’m very excited about it and I hope the community, once they get to see it, will be equally as excited,” Tate says.  

His intended plan, which is a collaboration between Tate Capital, Kobi Karp Architecture and EDSA, is to present a property designed with the marine community, boat show and local area in mind. 

If Tate gets the go-ahead, the location will receive seven residential buildings, parks and promenades throughout the property, a new 256-room hotel, a half-mile boardwalk around the perimeter, 50,000 square feet of commercial space with a marina village area, several restaurants and a new captain’s quarters featuring its own pool area and complete fitness center. At press time, Tate had submitted these plans to the city, pending approval. 

“It was important that we designed a community that was tied in with the inner workings and the infrastructure of the boat show,” Tate says. “I think the community and the marine industry is going to be pleasantly surprised by it once the property is fully developed and the boat show has the new venue space.”

Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Plans for the hotel’s refreshed lobby.

This year’s show:

Dates: Nov. 1 to 5 

Nov. 1 (prime time preview): Noon to 7 p.m.

Nov. 2  to 4: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Nov. 5: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Locations: Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel & Yachting Center, the Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Municipal Marina, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Sails Marina, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Marina and the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. 


• Valet parking available at Las Olas Marina, 201 S. Birch Road

• Park N Ride at the War Memorial Auditorium for $7, free shuttle buses to and from the Broward County Convention Center and the Las Olas Marina

• Garage parking available at the Riverside Hotel for $5, 620 E. Las Olas Blvd. 

• Bus transportation network for free, operates Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• Water Taxi transportation system, prices vary

• City of Fort Lauderdale parking 

• Valet parking available at The Galleria Mall for $8, 2414 E. Sunrise Blvd.

Tickets: flibs.com

Free/ages 6 and younger

$12/ages 7 to 15

$29/ages 16 and older 

$46.50/prime time preview