IBEX 2019: Frank Hugelmeyer: ‘The recreational boating industry is strong.’

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National Marine Manufacturers Association president Frank Hugelmeyer, who succeeds Thom Dammrich, addressed the recreational boating industry for the first time today during the Industry Breakfast prior to the opening of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference. The show starts today and runs through Thursday at the Tampa Convention Center.

“We need to think far beyond when consumers are on the water,” Hugelmeyer said, addressing a sold-out crowd of more than 800. “The trends play to our strengths. We have the innovative products and technologies. We exhibit the empathy and social corporate responsibility they seek.”

Hugelmeyer grew up boating on New York’s Long Island and is a former president of the RV Industry Association. The vice chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, he has been instrumental in bringing together the marine and RV industries.

Hugelmeyer said the marine industry has had 7 percent growth for the last seven years and that boating and fishing are a $170 billion ecosystem that represents 2.25 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. He acknowledged that some segments, such as small to midsize aluminum boats, have seen slight declines, but wake-sports boats and personal watercraft are up 5 percent.

“The vast majority of the indicators we measure are strong,” he said. “It’s important to remember that a year ago the marine industry was at a 10-year high.”

Like many in the marine industry, he stressed the importance of reaching a new audience that’s looking for a fresh experience, explaining that eight out of 10 outdoor participants want to try a new activity. “This means the recreational boating and fishing industry is in a position to attract more campers and hikers,” he said.

Hugelmeyer also said the industry must take better advantage of events such as boat shows to bring in newcomers. “They can help us all engage the customer of the future,” he said.

He noted that “NMMA must build on its promise to ensure that consumers have easy access to local and state waters,” adding that conservation is vital to ensuring boating for future generations.

On the advocacy side, Hugelmeyer said attendance at the annual American Boating Congress has grown by 40 percent and that NMMA is increasing funding for advocacy by $1.5 million through 2021. The industry also voted to raise $500,000 annually for BoatPAC by 2022.

“The recreational boating industry is strong, and more importantly, we have room to grow,” Hugelmeyer said as he finished his address. 

Click here for a video of highlights from Hugelmeyer's keynote.

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