The U.S. boating industry is reporting some of its highest sales in a decade.
As the industry prepares for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the boating season, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that the $36 billion U.S. boating industry saw powerboat sales rise 6 percent in 2016, reaching 247,800 boats.
The NMMA expects powerboat sales to rise an additional 6 percent this year, a trajectory that it expects will continue through 2018.
The data, which also showed that an estimated 981,600 used boats were sold last year, come from the NMMA's 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract.
“Economic factors, including an improving housing market, higher employment, strong consumer confidence and growing disposable income, are creating a golden age for the country’s recreational boating industry,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement.
“Summer is a busy selling season for our industry and we expect steady growth to continue across most boat categories through 2017 — and into 2018 — to keep up with the acceleration in demand for new boats,” he said.
The NMMA said demand continues to grow across nearly all powerboat segments. Outboard boat sales, which represent 85 percent of new traditional powerboats sold and include pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, as well as small fiberglass cruisers, were up 6.1 percent in 2016, to 160,900 units.
Sales of new ski and wakeboard boats, used for popular watersports such as wakesurfing and wakeboarding, saw a double-digit increase, up 11.5 percent, to 8,700 boats.
New personal watercraft sales, often considered a gateway to boat ownership, rose 7.3 percent to 59,000 units and jetboats — smaller fiberglass boats that use jet engine technology to propel the boat — saw a sales increase of 8.7 percent to 5,000 boats.
Sales of yachts — boats 33 feet and larger — rose 3.5 percent, reaching a seven-year high of 1,715 units in 2016.
“One of the standout areas of growth in 2016 was among yachts — a category that has been slower to rebound as high-net-worth individuals looked to remain more liquid post-recession,” Dammrich said.
“Additional trends driving economic growth for the industry include the creation of more affordable, versatile boats manufactured to appeal to a new generation of boaters, more intuitive marine technology making it easier to get on the water and operate a boat, and an emphasis on shared experiences with the introduction of more boat rental and shared boat ownership apps, as well as boat clubs, that offer access to boats as part of a membership fee,” he said.
The NMMA said the U.S. boating industry has an annual economic impact of more than $121.5 billion in direct, indirect and induced spending. It supports 650,000 direct and indirect American jobs and nearly 35,000 small businesses, the NMMA reported.