TAMPA, Fla. — The boating industry has turned the corner and is prospering with increasing overall retail spending and rising boat sales, National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich told hundreds of attendees this morning at the 2014 International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference.
“I have a very simple message for you this morning: These are good times in the boating industry and there are more good times ahead,” Dammrich said in his State of the Industry presentation at the Industry Breakfast.
Total retail spending in the marine industry in 2013 was $36.9 billion. If a projected net increase of 8 percent growth comes to fruition in 2014, total spending will near $40 billion, which would be the highest since the Great Recession ended. “That is good news and clearly an indication that recreational boating is alive and well in this country,” Dammrich said.
The number of boats sold in 2014 is projected to be 220,000. If that number increases by the projected 6 percent in 2015 and 2016, “we’ll be just under 250,000 total units for the industry,” he said.
Dammrich named several factors that will contribute to the continued growth of the marine industry, including the a rising Gross Domestic Product, lower unemployment, higher consumer spending and confidence and an increase in new-home sales. “New-home sales and boating correlate closely,” he said. “There is room for improvement [in the housing market] and it has a way to go until it fully heals.”
Political advocacy is also a priority for the industry. “It’s important that all 340,000 employees in the industry become part of our advocacy to let our regulators know that recreational boating is a powerful economic driver,” he said. “[Boating] is important to the social fabric in this country. It means increased jobs in your communities.”
He urged the industry to attend and/or sponsor the American Boating Congress “to learn about the issues of the business and visit your senators and congressmen.”
A good portion of the presentation was spent highlighting the success of the Discover Boating initiative, which has promoted boating through four groups, including a Hispanic family. In addition, Dammrich said, the industry’s advertising campaign and sponsorship of country singer Jake Owen’s “Days of Gold Tour” is paying off. Owens has promoted Discover Boating through major media networks, including during a television interview with Larry King.
Dammrich also mentioned the increased presence of Discover Boating on the Internet.
“One of our major efforts in the past year has been to drive consumers from discoverboating.com to a manufacturer’s website — 1.75 million people have gone from discoverboating.com to a manufacturer’s website,” Dammrich said. “Many manufacturers will tell you discoverboating.com is the No. 2 or 3 referral service to their website.”