MIAMI - The 71st annual Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show opened this morning, and signs point to a strong event, organizers said.
The early winter boat shows, so far, have seen “a lot of positive signs and positive indicators” that the consumer coming out to the shows is “highly qualified,” Thom Dammrich, president of the show’s producer, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said this morning at the industry breakfast before the show opened.
There seems to be renewed interest in the 30- to 55-foot boats, based on the early shows, he noted.
“I think we’re going to have a great show here,” Dammrich said. “I think we’re going to sell a lot of product.”
Dammrich also discussed the current state of the industry and the challenges it faces. The number of boats in use is declining, and registrations are relatively flat. Also, boaters, especially sailors, are aging at a faster rate than the U.S. population.
The good news is that although retail sales declined drastically until recently, participation in boating remained strong and returned to historical levels in 2010. This is consistent with increased retail sales in certain segments during the 2010 and 2011 retail season.
In August 2011, after a five-year decline, retail sales began to grow, and single-digit growth is expected through 2015.
“Boating is a passionate industry. There will always be people looking to get onto the water, regardless of economic conditions,” Dammrich noted.
Even during the downturn, boating remains a $30 billion industry. North America, he said, accounts for 44 percent of new boat and engine sales, and the U.S. boating industry exports more than it imports.
Wholesale shipments of new boats are expected to be up 23 percent in units and 33 percent in dollars in 2011.
To keep the industry growing, Dammrich said, it’s important to reach out to children and non-traditional boating populations. The recent growth summit began to address these issues, and a follow-up meeting is planned for late March to develop a plan for action.
Additionally, the “Welcome to the Water” campaign is a growing movement that needs help from everyone in the marine industry to keep it moving in the right direction, Dammrich said.
The Miami show, along with Strictly Sail and the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, runs through Monday.
— Beth Rosenberg