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Big Boats,  Motors and Crowds

Good weather, increased attendance and improving consumer confidence created a positive buzz at MIBS 2018
The docks at Virginia Key were filled with more than 700 vessels, including sailboats for the first time at this location.

The docks at Virginia Key were filled with more than 700 vessels, including sailboats for the first time at this location.

If you were looking for crowds at the 2018 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat show, a good place to start was in the booth of any manufacturer that builds a big outboard-powered boat, most likely a center console.

Mainstream companies like Grady White, Boston Whaler and Intrepid all unveiled new boats longer than 38 feet with outboard power. Custom and semi-custom builders such as Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, HCB Center Console Yachts and Deep Impact and Blackwater Boats showed off one-of-a-kind boats with as many as five big motors on the back. In short, fans of high-output clamp-on power had plenty to check out.

In its third year at the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, the 2018 edition of MIBS had four and a half good weather days (it rained some Monday), a three-percent increase in attendance and overall positive response from exhibitors who reported increased sales and solid traffic through their exhibits. Improvements made in the air conditioning systems for the indoor displays kept exhibitors and show visitors comfortable and there were plenty of facilities for folks to answer nature’s call. Getting people to and from the show remains a challenge, but overall, the feeling coming out of the show was enthusiastic.

“We heard from many exhibitors that they had a really strong show,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the owner of the show. “Because the economy is doing so well, and consumer confidence is high, people were there to spend money.”

Joe Curran, chief operating officer at Iconic Marine Group, which owns Fountain Powerboats, said the company sold “more boats at a Miami boat show than Fountain had in 11 years.”

Added Mike Yobe, vice president of product strategy for HCB Center Console Yachts, “It wasn’t like people were just coming around kicking tires. The buyer confidence was better this year than I’ve felt in the last five or six.”

Big Outboard Trend Continues


One of the most popular exhibits at the show belonged to Intrepid Powerboats, which had 11 total boats, all of which were powered by outboards. “We showed our versatility,” said Christian Gonzalez, vice president of sales for the company. “Some were designed for fishing, some had quad Seven (Marine engines). We had everything there a customer could want.”

Without divulging specifics, Gonzalez said sales were up by 25 percent over 2017. The company introduced its 407 Panacea at FLIBS last fall and the Miami show was the first time for many consumers to see the boat. He added that Intrepid wrote more orders for the new model than any other at MIBS.

Regarding the ongoing trend of outboard-powered boats getting bigger and bigger, Gonzalez said, “It’s amazing to see Tiaras, Sea Rays, Formulas and even Azimuts with outboard power.”

Intrepid and HCB Center Console Yachts had boats on display at MIBS and at the Miami Yachts Show on Collins Avenue. HCB, which recently changed its name from Hydrasports Custom Boats, had one of the most popular displays on Virginia Key with visitors drawn to the company’s 53-foot Sueños center consoles, all of which are built to customer specifications. A 65-footer is expected to make its debut later this year at FLIBS.

Improvements Made…

According to Dammrich, the official attendance of 97,391 visitors from 35 countries in 2018 was an increase of 3 percent over 2017. The primary reason for the number not being higher was that Sunday and Monday were slightly down, mainly due to rain on the final day of the show. Dammrich said attendance was up significantly on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday matched last year.


Overall, the weather was what everyone who visits the show from northern climates hopes for with plenty of sun and temperatures climbing into the low to mid 80s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. After complaints about the air conditioning last year, the NMMA made sure that would not be an issue in 2018. “We spent half a million dollars extra on air conditioning this year,” said Dammrich. “We were serious about fixing that problem.”

The NMMA invested in new docks and borrowed some from Informa, which owns and produces the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Speaking of Informa, the company also owns the Miami Yachts Show, which spent its last year on the city’s famed Collins Avenue in 2018. Next year the show will be based at the Sea Isle Marina and adjacent property, which should make it easier for visitors who want to visit both events.

“I think moving the yacht show to downtown Miami will definitely be better for the consumer,” said Dammrich who added in early March that the NMMA would be meeting with Informa to discuss a “full range of cooperation” for next year’s boat-show week.

Exhibitors and show attendees who were at FLIBS 2017 expected the stronger security at the 2018 MIBS, but on the show’s opening day some complained about the lines and wait times to get in. Adapting quickly, the NMMA didn’t require full screening of the exhibitors or the media, which shortened lines substantially on Friday. Industry professionals had to show a photo identification to gain admission. Also, to reduce the crush at the start of the show on Saturday and ensuing days, attendees were allowed to enter the center courtyard at 9:30 on Saturday morning, which also reduced wait times.

Work to be Done

After this year’s MIBS, Dammrich said there are two primary concerns that need to be addressed, the lines at the food trucks, especially during peak lunch times, and the transportation leaving the show.

“People love the food trucks, but the lines are slow,” he said. On Thursday at lunch time, the wait at a food truck that was serving barbecue was about 45 minutes.

Coming into the 2018 show, the NMMA announced that it would reduce the number of water-taxi stops and that the aquatic transportation wouldn’t start until 9 a.m. Most exhibitors and media are on-site in advance of that time, so they weren’t really affected by this move.

The crush came at the end of the day when so many people were trying to leave at the same time. Visitors and exhibitors could either take a bus to their parked cars or to the Miami Seaquarium parking lot where cabs and Uber/Lyft rides awaited or they could get on water taxis that dropped off at the American Airlines arena and Bayfront Park. (Editor’s note. See sidebar for our unscientific real-world test of the post-show transposition.)

“Although the lines for the buses to the parking lots looked long, they moved quickly and people did not spend a lot of time in line waiting for buses,” said Dammrich. He did acknowledge that the wait times for the water taxis were longer.

“When everybody wants to leave at the same time, it’s hard to get enough water taxis there to do it and it’s the timing of the water taxis,” said Dammrich. “Our biggest problem we have to work on is outbound at the end of the show. That will be our biggest priority for next year.”

For the most part, exhibitors told Trade Only that they made their own provisions for leaving the show, either by renting cars for their staff or commuting by boat and renting slips at their hotels. The staffs from Yellowfin boats and Seven Marine rented houses on the water for the week and took a boat or boats back and forth.

Additionally, the NMMA and Informa worked collectively to provide bus transportation between Virgina Key and Collins Avenue. Yobe said that he used the buses to go back and forth between his company’s two displays and that his experience was trouble-free.

The primary concern, however, isn’t the exhibitors. The attendees were the ones who spent the most time in the water-taxi lines.

“The NMMA needs to figure out how to get people from downtown in the city to the Island and back in a more predictable, less time-consuming manner,” said Jeff Vaughn, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service at Boston Whaler. “If it takes an hour or two to get there and it takes an hour or two to get out of there, do you think people are going to come back?”

Vaughn also said his company had VIP customers waiting in a water-taxi line for 1 ½ hours only to realize they needed a ticket to board. “We had their ticket, so they wound up having to take an Uber anyway,” he explained. We as exhibitors need to figure out some stuff, too. We have to get people tickets in advance or decide: ‘Do we have our own shuttle, where we bring out VIPs back and forth?’”

A few manufacturers said that they lost sales because customers who attended the show one day didn’t come back. “We’re still selling to baby boomers,” said Rob Parmentier, president and CEO for Marquis, Carver and Larson Boat Group. “Baby boomers have a tough go standing in line in the heat for an hour or two. I specifically had clients who said, ‘Thanks Rob, but it’s just too tough on me.’”

Brian Davis, vice president of outboard motor manufacturer Seven Marine, said, “It’s still difficult to get in and out of, but I’m seeing customers at the show who said they’d never come back and they’re back.”

MasterCraft Boats arranged its own private transportation while Garmin Marine rented vans and got VIP parking passes for its personnel to avoid the shuttles and water taxis.

For the second straight year, outboard-powered center consoles were the most popular style of boat at the show.

For the second straight year, outboard-powered center consoles were the most popular style of boat at the show.

New Models Galore

Once on site, people had plenty of boats and products to check out with 700 boats in the water displayed on more than four miles of docks. There were another 700 boats plus engines and accessories in the 600,000 square feet of air-conditioned tents. More than $3 billion in product was on display this year.

Grady-White drew consistent crowds after unveiling its new Canyon 456 on Thursday morning. At 45 feet long, it’s the biggest boat in the Greenville, N.C., based manufacturer’s fleet, but it’s the boat’s 14-foot beam that drew the most attention. Grady-White claims it’s the widest in class and many who saw the new model were impressed by its space.

“We had been toying with the idea of a bigger center console for a long time,” said Shelley Tubaugh, vice president of marketing at Grady-White. “We stepped back and said, ‘What kind of platform do we need that will make it a unique offering for our customers stepping up from our smaller center consoles or down from larger sportfishers?’”

Tubaugh explained that Grady-White wanted to stay true to its core values. The boat is designed first and foremost as a serious offshore fishing machine with the SeaV2 hull, a self-bailing cockpit, more than 50 rod holders, large overboard-draining fish boxes and more but it also has luxury items as well. “We put a strategic focus on fishing and creature comforts, with the goal to deliver exceptional attention to detail in all aspects,” said Tubaugh.

After unveiling its 350 Realm at FLIBS and winning a MIBS Innovation Award for the boat in the Cabin Cruiser category, Boston Whaler added to its royal family with the 380 Realm that was introduced on Thursday afternoon. The boat is 38 feet long with an 11-foot, 8-inch beam and displaces 28,000 pounds. It runs around 53 to 54 mph with four Mercury 350-hp Verado outboards.

The new line of boats, which has bow seating, a cabin and protection from the elements abaft the console has been well received. Boston Whaler doesn’t give specific sales numbers, but Vaughn said the manufacturer sold “multiple new 35-foot and 38-foot Realms.” He said that sales at the show were up over 2017 and that production on the new model will start in the second half of this year.

Vaughn added that a “significant number of sales” came from Latin America and the Caribbean for people who were replacing vessels lost in last summer’s and fall’s hurricanes.

After introducing its outboard-powered Tiara Sport Series with the Sport 38 LS at FLIBS, S2 Yachts took home an Innovation Award for the boat in the Cuddy Cabin and Bowrider Boats Class. Additionally, sister company Pursuit won the Center Console/Walkaround Fishing Boats category with its DC 365.

World Cat presented its new 280DC-X, a dual console model, at an unveiling on Thursday morning. Wyatt Lane, World Cat’s national distribution manager said that 13 percent of the people who buy his company’s boats are first-time boaters, so the boat was designed to be family and fishing friendly.

“Knowing that we’re getting new people on the water is good for the industry,” he said.

While Yellowfin presdient Wylie Nagler was pleased with selling about 18 boats at this year’s show, he said “We’re there to show a boat not sell it. We’re not doing the hard hit to try to get a guy to take out his checkbook.” Nagler said that Yellowfin’s sales spanned the company’s full model line, but he’s not necessarily getting caught up in the 50-plus foot craze. “The trend is not so much in the mid 50-foot as it is in that 37-foot to 45-foot range,” he explained. “How many million-dollar center-consoles are being built in a year?”

Yanmar introduce a new diesel inboard for sailboats.

Yanmar introduce a new diesel inboard for sailboats.

Power Plays

One person who disagreed with Nagler is Seven Marine’s Davis, who called MIBS 2018 the best show in the company’s history. “The amount of growth we’re going through right now is unprecedented,” he said. “The traction of the large center-console boats is really strong.”

As we reported last month, Seven Marine had its best December ever in 2017. Davis said that January 2018 tied December and February was the best month in Seven Marine history.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Seven Marine introduced two new models, the 527-hp and 577-hp and a redesigned 627-hp outboard. The company is phasing out its first motor, the 557. Additionally, the Wisconsin-based manufacturer presented its contra-rotating twin-prop lower unit, the CR, for the first time. It’s available for all three motors and is designed for larger boats weighing between 20,000 and 65,000 pounds that run less than 60 mph.

“Boat weight is increasing and we’ve got the torque to carry the big boats and deliver the big-boat experience and make these big boats feel like small boats” said Davis.

He added that the partnership with Volvo Penta, especially the manufacturer’s service support, has been a big reason for Seven Marine’s increased sales. “The support network is increasing OEM and consumer confidence,” said Davis. “I have just as many Florida orders as I would normally, but I’m getting orders in other parts of the country.”

To show how strongly the parent company is supporting Seven Marine, Ron Huibers, CEO and President of Volvo Penta of the Americas spoke at the press conference. Additionally, Martin Lundstedt, the president and CEO of Volvo Group, (ie the top guy at all Volvo companies), was on hand.

At the other end of the power spectrum, Yanmar Marine focused its engineering efforts on developing the industry’s smallest diesel engine with common-rail fuel injection. The company first unveiled the 40-hp, three-cylinder 3JH40 at the Dusseldorf boat show, but MIBS was the first showing for the North American market. The engine that is designed for sailboats won the Innovation Award in the inboard category. Yanmar also introduced a 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is available in five horsepower ratings ranging from 150 to 250. The engine also has common-rail injection and turbocharging.

Yellowfin and other exhibitors in the tents appreciated the upgraded air conditioning.

Yellowfin and other exhibitors in the tents appreciated the upgraded air conditioning.

Yanmar also partnered with Vetus on joystick and thruster systems and the company is working with Correct Craft to explore diesel power for wake sports applications.

Back to the big outboards, Suzuki’s vice president of marine sales Gus Blakely said that the momentum created by the introduction of the company’s DF350A outboard at FLIBS carried over to MIBS. Suzuki had four boats in the water with quad DF350As and the company had interest in repower business on its 350-hp, 300-hp and even 200-hp models.

One highlight for Suzuki was an Intrepid 407 Panacea with triple DF350As that had multiple requests for sea trials. Blakely explained that he also fielded inquiries about the contra-rotating propeller system on the DF350A being available on smaller engines. Much like the Seven Marine contra-rotating gearcase, the Suzuki version received strong reviews for its ability to move around heavy boats when running at mid-range speeds and when docking. Suzuki also introduced its BF23 and BF30 in white.

Yamaha Marine Group had 22 boats in the water at this year’s MIBS. Company president Ben Speciale told Trade Only in an email, “It was noticeably clearer to me that the innovative features from Yamaha Helm Master systems have penetrated the minds of potential new-boat buyers.” He added that a potential buyer told him, “That system (Helm Master) really makes docking easier and fishing on the open water more enjoyable.”

Yamaha also introduced the newest member to its SHO series, the V MAX SHO 90.

Not shying away from an issue that he knows the industry is aware of, Speciale addressed the company’s challenge to meet increased demand for its larger 2.8-, 4.2- and 5.3-liter outboards. “This unexpected upward trend on the demand for Yamaha outboards has led to some temporary supply shortages of certain outboards,” Speciale wrote in an email. “The leadership team met earlier in the year to focus on closing the short-term gap, and to projecting a new long-term demand to meet the needs of our customers. Due to worldwide reallocation of our outboards, we have already started closing the gap and will continue to work hard on meeting the demand for our reliable products.”

Honda Marine’s assistant vice president Will Walton III introduced the company’s refreshed BF200, BF225 and BF250 at a press conference Thursday morning. The new V-6 outboard displaces 3.6 liters, weighs 600 pounds and produces 7 percent more torque than the motor it is replacing. The new models are available in the company’s silver and a new white with an updated cowl design that reduces dock scrapes. For improved access and easier maintenance, the fuel separator and filter have been relocated for 2018.

He explained that Honda Marine has 14 new or refreshed motors in the last 24 months and in 2017, the company had month over month sales increases through the year.

Tracy Crocker joined Evinrude as senior vice president and general manager about six months ago and says the company “feels good with where it’s at with the E-TEC story.” Evinrude didn’t introduce any new motors at Miami, but Crocker did say the company is sold out on its iDock joystick system and that its i-Link app is gaining popularity. “Owners want the boat to have the same operating systems as a car,” Crocker said. “Someone should expect to buy an engine with 5 years of almost flawless experience.”

While many in the industry were expecting Mercury Marine to introduce a 450 or 500-hp outboard as a follow up to its successful Verado 400R that was unveiled in 2015, the boys in black threw us a curve. As we covered in last month’s issue in the story, “Mercury unveils new V-6 outboard,” the company introduced a 3.4-liter V-6 in 175-, 200- and 225-hp ratings that is available in Phantom Black or three shades of white with accent striping. The new poweprlant won an Innovation Award in the Outboard category.

Mercury also introduced a fourstroke 150 ProXS outboard while Mercury Racing presented its second dual-fuel engine based on the Qc4V block, the 1350/1100. Run the engine on 91 octane gasoline and it will produce 1,350 hp. If only 89-octane is available, the engine will still make 1,100 hp.

At 10:15 Thursday morning, Mercury president John Pfeifer welcomed everyone to Miami and introduced the new motor on Facebook Live and it was literally streamed around the world including all the different departments at Mercury Marine headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wis., and at the Helsinki Boat Show.

“There was definitely a buzz after the 350 and 400 in 2015,” said Lee Gordon, director of global public relations and communications for Mercury Marine. “But I’d put this on top of it.”

Gordon said that it would be difficult to quantify sales numbers for individual units, so he bases his reaction on what he heard at the show. “You’ve got consumers saying, ‘When can I get this or ‘How can I get this color?’”

Next year, they’ll probably be asking, can I get this as a 500?

Boats with four large outboards are becoming more prevalent.

Boats with four large outboards are becoming more prevalent.

Reagan Haynes’ view from the docks

For other builders of outboard-powered center consoles, the 2018 edition of MIBS was entirely positive.

“If you’re not selling boats in this market, you may as well get out of the business,” said Scout Boats COO and senior vice president Dave Wallace.

Sales were up about 30 percent for Scout at this year’s show, which Wallace said was a strong one for the company.

“Traffic has got to be way up,” said James Pate, Scout Boats sales representative for South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico. “We’re seeing super-high inventory turns with dealers. People just like the outboards.”

Sea Hunt Boats sales manager Johnny Craig agreed.

“They got everything right this year,” Craig said of the NMMA. “They got the layout right, they’ve got the air conditioning right, the traffic is great in the tents this year.”

Everglades Boats had seen a pre-show spike that carried over to Virginia Key, said Mitch Berube with Boaters Exchange in Rockledge, Fla. “We were particularly strong on opening day,” Berube said. “We’re going to pull a lot of deals together here.”

Parmentier said the show was proof that outboard-powered boats have become as mainstream as SUVs.

“All those people aren’t fishing,” he said of outboard buyers. “The pontoon did not just take the place of the runabout; so did the center consoles. The outboard, the power and technology — people don’t like decibels. The new outboards sound like vacuum cleaners. They come up on plane quicker, they’re easier to winterize — that’s a lot of strikes against the old I/Os.”

In its third year at the new location, the 2018 edition of the Miami International Boat Show was the biggest yet.

In its third year at the new location, the 2018 edition of the Miami International Boat Show was the biggest yet.

Expanding operations and larger boats

The outboard-powered boat segment is so strong that some manufacturers are increasing capacity. Scout Boats has begun construction on a 120,000-square-foot plant in Summerville, S.C. The $10.9 million investment earned the company a mention by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wallace said.

NauticStar has hired 25 to 30 new employees in the past 90 days and plans to hire more. The October sale of the company to MasterCraft gave NauticStar employees “a newfound level of optimism,” said sales and marketing vice president Phillip Faulkner, son of the company’s founder.

The NauticStar 28 XS Offshore was busy taking prospective buyers out during the show, said Peter Godtel, the boat’s captain who sells NauticStars at Key Largo, Fla.-based Yacht Works. Passengers appreciated the 9-foot, 8-inch beam and large walkaround that allowed them to move past each other easily, Godtel said. The 28 XS comes standard with twin Yamaha 250s; the 28 XS conducting sea trials was powered with optional 300s, and retailed for about $175,000.

The weather could not have been better throughout the five days.

The weather could not have been better throughout the five days.

Larger boats and higher dollar amounts

Show attendees seemed eager to put the new capacity to use, buying larger and more expensive boats than in prior years, said Chaparral and Robalo Boats vice president Ann Baldree.

“I think our dealers overall are very happy with attendance and the quality of buyer,” she said.

Financing has been less of a problem as banks loosen up criteria and people clean up their credit, says Bill Pegg, human resource, information technology, finance and purchasing departments manager.

Volume targets were not met for Groupe Beneteau’s nine brands, but from a dollar standpoint, dealers were on par with expectations, said George Armendariz, CEO of Groupe Beneteau Americas.

Sea Ray Senior Vice President and General Manager Scott Ward said the economy continues to help the industry, with the Miami show extending recent gains. “Consumer trends lend well to boat sales and provide even greater opportunities for larger boat sales, which we have seen over the last year with record-breaking Fort Lauderdale and Yacht Expo events,” he said.

The annual industry breakfast on Friday drew a sell-out crowd.

The annual industry breakfast on Friday drew a sell-out crowd.

Busier (and cooler) tents

Traffic was up in the tents this year, several exhibitors said, possibly because the of the improved air conditioning.

“Last year seemed busier in surges, as opposed to this year, where we saw steady traffic the whole time,” says Garmin director of sales marketing, marine, Dave Dunn. “We talked to a lot of customers that were ready to buy and excited about our products. We don’t sell directly to customers at trade shows like this; we instead gauge our success on OEMs and dealers, and they’ve all reported back with positive feedback and really strong sales.”

MasterCraft global sales and marketing vice president Jay Povlin also said traffic was good: “We had consumers coming through, industry people coming through and prospective dealers. We did notice fairly solid traffic coming through all the tents.”

Dunn said he sees no signs of change on the immediate horizon. “Shows like this are a critical part of the industry and we’re excited to see the show growing into its new home,” says Dunn. “Consumer confidence is high, and there seems to be more new boat purchases this year than years past. It’s been a good show season, and we don’t expect the industry will see a slowdown in the near future.”

Demos busier than ever

Andrew Semprevivo, COO at Seakeeper, says the gyrostabilizer manufacturer collected 50 percent more leads this year than last year.

“We did hear good feedback on the Seakeeper 2, as well as on our demo boats,” says Semprevivo. “We’re constantly working to bring stabilization to smaller boats, and this is another step in that direction. Miami is a great place to show off what Seakeeper can do, and it’s one of our best markets.”

Several demo boats went out time after time from the Evrinrude, Honda, Mercury and Yamaha docks too.

“It was everything we hoped it would be and then some,” says Mercury’s Gordon. “The weather was perfect, and people were just so happy.”

Nautique was pleased with its strong international sales and leads, says Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin.

Many manufacturers see the Miami show as a place to bring together international dealers, and this year saw more of that, said Prestige and Jeanneau America president Nicolas Harvey.

Mercury Marine had many international dealers from Australia and Europe, Gordon said. NauticStar’s Povlin said that brand also received international attention.

Increasing integration

Systems integration continued to be an industry theme, with Garmin using the Miami show to unveil its OneHelm integration initiative.

“We saw a lot of the same from other brands too,” Dunn says. “Everyone seems to be working together more to make the boating experience more user-friendly for customers, and in the end, that’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

At the annual industry breakfast, Dammrich said outdoor recreation accounts for 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, making it a larger contributor to the U.S. economy than mining or agriculture, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“Last year’s show contributed $854 million of economic activity to south Florida,” he said. “That’s equivalent of two and a half Super Bowls.”

The overall GDP has grown around 2.5 percent during two out of the past three quarters, Dammrich said. New home sales are strong, which is good news for the industry because new boat sales tend to track in line with housing.

“Many economists will say we’re near full employment, and I think we see that as we go to hire people,” Dammrich said. “It appears that all the stars are aligning and tailwinds are behind us.”

In Washington, D.C., there is no political divide when it comes to fishing and boating, Dammrich said. But “in spite of all the good work that’s been done, there’s still more that needs to be done,” he said.

Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation

Women helped drive an 8.2 percent spike in fishing participation during the past five years, with 45 percent of new fishing participants being female last year, according to data from Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation president Frank Peterson. Of those females, 42 percent were 6 to 12 years old.

“Women are extremely important to this increase in participation,” Peterson said. “We have to showcase girls and women participating in fishing. Women are extremely important to the industry [but] they don’t see themselves in this sport. They don’t feel welcome, so we have to do a better job.”

To understand the needs of women, Hispanics and other members of the increasingly diverse U.S. population, companies need to have relevant members on staff, Peterson said, adding that 25 percent of RBFF employees speak Spanish and all but four are female.

BEA focuses on outdoor recreation

The outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016, compared with the overall U.S. economy’s 2.8 percent growth, members of the BEA said. Boating and fishing had the second-largest growth rate of outdoor recreation in 2016, behind bicycling, generating $38.2 billion. Boating and fishing saw a 4 percent increase from the year prior and a 5.4 percent growth rate from 2012 to 2016, said Lucas Hitt, communications chief at the BEA.

“[Boating and fishing] had nearly twice the growth rate as outdoor recreation as a whole,” Hitt said. “It’s clearly one of the driving subsets of growth of outdoor recreational activities.”

Outdoor recreation contributed $373.7 billion to the GDP in 2016, about 2 percent. Mining contributes 1.5 percent to the GDP, and agriculture accounts for 1 percent. Manufacturing accounted for 11.7 percent.

Tina Highfill, an economist with BEA, said the boating and fishing category was the largest outdoor recreational activity after motorized vehicles, which accounted for $59.4 billion of gross output — more than half of that is attributed to RVs.

The group designated outdoor recreation as activities that occur in nature that require some exertion. It used the same methodology as it applied to all GDP measurements to ensure the comparisons are “apples to apples,” Hitt said.

This is the first time that outdoor recreational activity ripples through the U.S. economy. The report, published Feb. 14, marks a milestone in the in BEA’s work to measure the size and growth of outdoor recreation.

“There is no consensus about what constitutes what outdoor recreation is,” Hitt said. “Some are obvious, like hiking and camping. Some are not as obvious; for example, gardening.”

Because of the way the report broke down categories, boating’s impact may be even larger than the numbers suggest. While Guy Harvey shirts counted as apparel, waders were part of fishing because they are used primarily for that activity. Dock construction would be part of the construction line item, even though it is related to outdoor recreation. Guided tours and charters were broken out because they fall under trips and travel.

“There is overlap in every one of these activities,” Highfill said. “We can’t double count. We have to draw lines — there’s no one dollar amount that exists in more than one line item.”

One area that received several questions from the 40 or 50 attendees of the presentation, hosted by the Outdoor Recreational Roundtable and the NMMA, was guided tours and charters, which were broken out separately since they fall under trips and travel.

“We want to get feedback on how presentations laid out,” Hitt said. “Our hope is to add breakdowns on geographical area.”

Feedback about the data will help the agency finalize definitions and more going forward, the team said.

“This is giving us really objective data,” Dammrich said. “This gave us a lot of ammunition [going to Congress] with some really credible numbers.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue.



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