TAMPA, Fla. — The marine industry should grow for two to three more years as consumer confidence and spending continue to strengthen, NMMA president Thom Dammrich told a sold-out crowd of 750 on the first day of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference.
“There are a lot of things going well in our industry,” Dammrich said. “These really are good times in our industry, and fortunately those good times are going to continue.”
From 2011 through 2015 boat sales grew in the 5 to 6 percent range, he said. “This year it looks like retail sales could be up in the 8, 9, even 10 percent range,” he said. “So we are beginning to see some acceleration.”
Most segments in new boat sales are growing, with PWC sales increasing by 15.5 percent and pontoons 11.5 percent on a rolling 12-month basis year over year from June of last year to June this year. Cruiser sales grew nearly 1 percent, and saltwater fishing boat sales grew 9.4 percent. Alabama and Florida led the way in 2015 for new-boat spending. Growth was more than 10 percent in both states.
“Pontoon boats and outboard [boats] are almost back to pre-recession levels in terms of units, and with the exception of runabouts, sterndrive cruisers and inboard cruisers, most of the other segments are 60 to 75 percent of the way back toward those pre-recession levels,” Dammrich said.
He also said “most of the boating segments are back to pre-recession levels in terms of dollar sales.”
Real Gross Domestic Product has increased, real disposable income has risen and consumer confidence continues to grow, Dammrich said. All three have factored into the marine industry’s prosperity, he said.
“Consumer spending is strong and has been driving the economy for the past six years,” he said. “Recreational boating has always gotten its fair share of total consumer spending.”
New-boat inventory is as lean as it has ever been, he said. The NMMA has been working on collecting data with an economic consulting company that has projected the industry will continue to expand through March of 2019.
“That is another two and a half years of growth for our industry — that is pretty good,” said Dammrich.
Dammrich updated the industry on the status of the Miami International Boat Show, saying the NMMA is expanding the number of boats in the water from 400 to 550. Space for boats on land will be sold out. Organizers have increased the number of water taxis by 50 percent. Larger taxis will be available, with some holding as many as 300 to 350 passengers.
Bus transportation will be improved, as well. Buses will depart from five locations in downtown Miami. The food will be better, the lighting in the tents will be improved and there will be more restrooms, he said.
Dammrich also reported that Discover Boating is having one of its most successful years, with 38 million people viewing its Stories of Discovery online videos.
Dammrich said a Nielsen company study asked participants whether they believe boating is a worthwhile activity. About 54 percent of those who watched Stories of Discovery videos before they were surveyed said boating was a worthwhile activity, while only 30 percent of those that had not seen the videos said boating was a worthwhile activity.
Discover Boating and the Stories of Discovery campaign have driven a lot of traffic to discoverboating.com; last year 5.3 million people visited discoverboating.com and page views were up 15 percent.
Grow Boating president Carl Blackwell will present research on Wednesday about first time-boat buyers.
“I believe there is something of value in the research for everyone in this room,” Dammrich said.