After the rough waters following the Great Recession, the recreational boating industry in the US is setting sail again. Demand for recreational boating products in the US grew 8.2% per year from 2012 to 2017, reaching $14.1 billion in 2017. Here are five of the trends that helped the boating industry rebound.
1. More Outboard Powerboats
It would be hard to discuss the resurgence in the boating industry without giving a shout out to outboard powerboats, whose lower price and advantageous engine design contribute to their popularity. Outboards have become increasingly popular in recent years and continue to drive the recovery of the recreational boating industry.
Outboard motors – compared to inboard and sterndrive engines – are more easily maintained, replaced, and upgraded. Moreover, these engines are lighter, with a higher power to weight ratio. These engines, which continue to be augmented with advanced technologies, are being chosen for more and more vessels and support recreational boat demand.
2. Boat Sharing to Boat Buying
While owning a boat makes it much easier to get on the water, it does not preclude wannabe boaters from hitting the waves. Boat apps and websites like Boatsetter connect these consumers with boat owners and allow them to rent a vessel. Additionally, boat clubs—some of which are nationwide—allow consumers to access a boat for use without the time and money required for personal ownership.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) actively supports the growing use of boat sharing services. Although promoting boat sharing may seem counterproductive to increasing recreational boat sales, this growing service is actively supported by boat manufactures and recreational boating associations. Boat sharing promotes increased participation in water activities and grows the potential user base by allowing consumers to enjoy the water without first buying a boat.
3. Marketing and Educational Programs Promoting Fishing and Boating
The boating industry also supports various initiatives to increase interest in boating among different demographics and younger people in hopes to later gain boat sales from these groups. For instance, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) supports fishing marketing campaigns like Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar, which have websites to support fishing participation among English and Spanish populations, respectively. RBFF also partners with the Boy Scouts of America to increase children’s engagement with fishing.
NMMA manages Grow Boating, an organization aimed at increasing participation in boating via various initiatives, such as the Discover Boating marketing campaign. Discover Boating’s website provides information on water-related activities, types of boats available, and where to buy or access boats.
4. Rec Lite Movement is Not Light on Growth
Rec Lite is a new segment of entry-level personal watercraft that arose from the release of the Sea-Doo SPARK in 2014. These units, and the Yamaha WaveRunner EX series that followed, are more affordable than previous personal watercraft models and appeal to consumers on tighter budgets. Overall, US demand for all personal watercraft reached 63,000 units in 2017.
Although the lower price also comes with reduced horsepower, the overall weight of these units is also decreased. Lighter on the price plus light on the scale equals Rec Lite. The lighter weight is finding appeal among consumers looking to pull tricks on the water
5. Using Technology for an Easier Boating Experience
Consumers are continuing to add more of the recent innovations made by boat manufacturers as they see the value of these advances. Technologies that increase prices and convenience include:
- joystick controls for maneuvering boats in tight spaces
- virtual anchors, which allow consumers to maintain or manipulate their position via GPS
- digital dashboards that allow consumers to easily monitor boat functions and toggle between multiple interfaces
Overall, these advances have made boating more approachable for new seafarers and easier for boaters everywhere.
For More Information
Powered by these factors, demand for recreational boating products is expected to continue to grow. For more information on these insights and others, check out The Freedonia Group’s industry study, Recreational Boating in the US, which offers:
- historical data and forecasts
- demand for recreational boating by product and region
- analysis of the factors affecting demand
- a breakdown of industry players
- consumer survey research
About the Author:
Dan Debelius is an industry analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he writes industry studies on the US consumer and commercial goods market