MIAMI 2020: ‘We have an enormous opportunity’

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With the backdrop of downtown Miami in the distance, Miami International Boat Show director gave the opening remarks at this morning’s Industry Breakfast.

“Our show has such a rich history for the boating industry and the city of Miami,” Berryman told attendees before introducing Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation vice president of communications Stephanie Vatalaro.

Vatalaro spoke about a central theme of the show: getting more people on the water.

“The water is open to everyone,” she said, citing statistics that show the foundation’s success in bringing a younger, more culturally diverse audience to the sport. “We need to look at who we are targeting.”

Her comments echoed those by RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson the previous evening, who told Trade Only Today: “Our charge is to grow the sport” targeting youth and women.

Noah Valenstein, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, spoke about maintaining and preserving the state’s natural resources for future generations of boaters.

“We are a playground of natural resources,” Valenstein said.

Valenstein pointed out that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has committed $2.5 billion over the next four years for water quality, as well as last week’s presidential budget announcement that earmarks $250 million for Everglades restoration.

In his first keynote address as NMMA president, Frank Hugelmeyer provided some impressive statistics. The boating industry accounts for 4.3 percent of Florida’s GDP and supports more than 500,000 jobs. The marine industry accounts for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP, with $778 billion in gross output supporting 5.2 million jobs.

While 88 percent of marine CEOs polled are confident heading into 2020, he said, the industry has some work to do in capturing market share. With participation in outdoor recreation up, “we have an enormous opportunity that we’re missing,” Hugelmeyer said.

Past president of the RV industry Association, he noted the high cost of new boats as a barrier to entry, unlike the RV industry, which has more affordable options for newcomers.

NMMA statistics show that eight out of 10 boat buyers start in the preowned market, and 50 percent are out of boating within five years.

“How do we, as an industry, target new customers, Hugelmeyer asked? “[We] bring a unified message around experiences, creating FOMO,” or fear of missing out for the uninitiated.

Hugelmeyer ended with a takeaway for attendees: “There’s never a lack of friends that won’t join you on a boat.”

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