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Outlook 2017

Will the upsurge in consumer confidence and spending carry over into the new year?

John Adey


President, American Boat & Yacht Council

Here at ABYC we are seeing a positive trend that I can predict will only become more popular as 2016 rolls into 2017. The trend is the desire for and formalization of education and certification.

Companies such as Evinrude and Yanmar made large announcements about improving their training centers, while ABYC has booked record on-site classes for companies that want to invest in their employees. We are also seeing manufacturers getting into their own proprietary training in a bigger way than ever before.

Online learning is filling a gap that either introduces education to groups that otherwise would not have access or it helps cut down on the in-class time that is a common barrier to traditional training. Additionally many members of ABYC’s Marine League of Schools (schools that utilize the ABYC certification curriculum) are seeing record enrollment.

With the focus on a lack of trained technicians in our industry, this news is certainly welcomed! ABYC has a project that will bring formalized marine training to the high school student, further cultivating the potential hiring pool.

The big question is what does the job market really look like for these folks? Is it attractive enough to leave a job, say in the automotive sector? My hope is that we as an industry can be a viable and preferred option for bright young students who don’t want to sit behind a desk and are ready for a manufacturing or boatyard career, not just a summer job.

So with all of this interest in training, let’s hope we are able to attract and retain good employees in 2017 and beyond.

Huw Bower


President, Brunswick Boat Group

As 2016 draws to a close, it marks the sixth consecutive year of sustained growth in the United States marine market. While the market has yet to recover to its pre-recession unit volumes, much of the industry has repositioned and adapted itself to capture solid profits and deliver increased value to our consumers.

This bodes well for continued growth into 2017. The driver of this growth has been the remarkably resilient marine consumer, buoyed by low energy prices, low interest rates and improved employment. International market performance has been more uneven, with Europe posting solid growth for local producers while the rest of the world has been challenged by the strong dollar. These broad market conditions will extend into 2017.

The product trends that have underpinned this recovery will continue to propel growth in the U.S. and other markets. The popularity of outboard power will drive above-average growth in the pontoon, large saltwater fish and aluminum fishing boat segments, while OEMs who deliver innovation around versatility, comfort and outdoor living space will continue to be rewarded.

Investment is critical, and at Brunswick our focus on brand development and product vitality will continue to be central to our winning strategy. On average, Brunswick’s boat operations spend approximately 5 percent of sales — around $65 million every year — on R&D and capital expenditures, most directed to capacity expansion, cost reduction and new product development.

The scale of these investments is critical to satisfying demand, while making boating more affordable, enjoyable and intuitive for an increasingly sophisticated and technology-savvy customer. I anticipate that 2017 will mark significant steps forward in connectivity and simple, intuitive display and control.

We’re confident in the growth outlook for 2017, we’re excited to bring our new product and innovations to market and we’re delighted that the marine consumer will continue to be well served going forward.

Jim Coburn


Managing partner, Coburn & Associates; director and past president, National Marine Lenders Association; director and immediate past chairman, Michigan Boating Industries Association

Taking a quick look at 2016’s recreational boating industry performance and trends establishes a predominately positive discussion for 2017. Our national and boating industry economies performed well in 2016, as we had forecast a year ago.

U.S. employment grew moderately, with unemployment now at 4.6 percent and consumer confidence averaging 98.4 in 2016, about a point higher than in 2015. Fuel prices trended lower again in 2016, a favorable outcome for consumers and retail marine businesses. New-boat inventory levels were reported as being trim and manageable in 2016, and interest rates were flat through November 2016 following the Fed’s last increase in December 2015.

While there’s really no way to know what exactly will happen in 2017, we believe the year will again produce positive results. According to revised NMMA stats, recreational boating annual retail expenditures rose for a fifth straight year in 2015, to $35.7 billion. Our current forecast suggests 2016 will perform near $36.5 billion and over $37 billion in 2017.

Current-era new-boat unit sales still do not meet 2007 and prior-year achievements, but have increased steadily from 2011 to 2015 — by an average of 5.6 percent. We forecast that 2017 should bring another year of growth in the 7 percent range.

Getting back to economics, the leading U.S. economists are forecasting favorable numbers throughout 2017. Unemployment should improve to an average of 4.5 percent, and even a bit lower in 2018. Consumer confidence has now trended over 100 for four straight months at this writing. A consistent performance of over 100 is exactly what the industry needs.

This is accompanied by recent, albeit modest improvements in the GDP and continued strong consumer spending. Fuel prices may not fare as well in 2017, as economists forecast an average 28 percent increase in per-barrel crude values. We do not believe this will be a negative outcome for boat sales.

Innovation — new and better products — has helped pull the industry up from the low points of the recession.

Innovation — new and better products — has helped pull the industry up from the low points of the recession.

Areas to watch in 2017 are interest rates and legislative events. Many economists are projecting interest rates (such as prime) to increase by 0.75 by year-end 2017. This bullet was dodged in 2016, but it could increase future industry costs and consumer affordability. A new administration in Washington will definitely require more focus on legislative events that affect recreational boating.

Finally, we love to talk about boat loans. Retail and wholesale lending remains available, underwriting guidelines appear to be stable and lenders are generally reporting productive growth in the marine finance space.

Boat loan delinquency rates also remain low, consumer rates and terms are favorable and a majority of marine lenders remain optimistic for new business in 2017.

Thom Dammrich


President, National Marine Manufacturers Association

Last year at this time I commented that upcycles for our industry typically last five years and that 2015 was our industry’s fifth year of growth. I also noted that we weren’t in a typical upcycle, given the significance of the global recession and our slow and steady rebound.

As a result, I predicted we’d see continued industry growth in the range of 5 to 7 percent in 2016, and I am happy to report that prediction held true. In fact, it’s looking like we’ll close the year on the higher side of that forecast. What’s more, we are back and seeing robust industry sales levels in dollars and are expected to top 250,000 units in 2016.

Growth came in all major segments, with pontoons, personal watercraft, saltwater fishing boats and inboard ski boats seeing some of the strongest gains — between 7 and 12 percent. One of the more standout areas of growth was among large boats — a category that has been slower to rebound as high-net-worth individuals looked to remain more liquid post-recession.

We expect 2016 to show an increase of 1 to 3 percent in unit sales of new cruisers and yachts, and that trend is likely to continue into 2017 as consumer confidence and spending remain strong.

Heading into 2017, manufacturers are gearing up for a busy winter boat show season and another year of consumers in the mood to buy. With economic indicators working in our favor — a continuously improving housing market, strong consumer confidence, growing disposable income and consumer spending, and low interest rates and gasoline prices — 2017 is likely to bring new dollar and unit sales gains on par with, or better, than 2016.

As the Trump administration gets up and running in D.C., the outlook from Washington is mixed. Pulling back from free trade will not benefit our industry, our country or the world economy. But if President-elect Trump and the Republican Congress can follow through with increased spending on infrastructure, tax reform and immigration reform in 2017, this could ignite strong economic growth and accelerate boating industry sales.

A smart immigration policy could help ease the significant worker shortage in the marine industry. Fewer regulations overall, and better controls on health care costs, would benefit our industry, as well as the economy, further fueling growth. President-elect Trump is a yacht owner, and his son Donald Jr. is an avid outdoorsman.

I think we can expect an administration that is helpful on fishing and boating access issues. While Trump’s positIon on ethanol is a little fuzzy, we should find a more receptive audience on this issue as we continue our work to achieve a renewable fuels policy that limits the use of ethanol.

NMMA is expecting a good, strong year for recreational boating in 2017, with sales continuing to accelerate into 2018. We will look back on this period as a golden age for our economy and our industry. So now is the time to make hay while the sun is shining.

Scott Deal


President, Maverick Boat Group

2017 will undoubtedly be a year of change. What that change will be is currently the subject of a boisterous, if not terribly civil debate in this country and across the globe. Part of that is related to the election and its final result, and part is evidenced by it.

Income inequality is a real issue, and one that hopefully will be addressed. If we assume the Trump presidency is able to create the more business-friendly environment he has described and is successful in accomplishing even part of his proposed tax changes, I think it will be very stimulative to our industry and may well help those at both ends of the earnings spectrum increase their disposable income.

Cash in people’s pockets is a good thing. According to The Conference Board, consumer confidence in November rose to levels approaching those pre-recession (107 vs. 112 in 2007). CCI numbers north of 100 normally portend growth in boat sales, so we should see continued growth in 2017, barring some systemic shock — especially if folks have more cash.

By and large, it is my opinion that we’ve lost the entry-level buyer. You see that in the current sales trends of ever larger and more expensive boats. Not until the lower-tier buyer returns to the market will you see rapid unit growth and historical industry registration levels.

However, steady unit growth has been there and likely will moderate in the mid- to high-single digits in the coming year, but revenue will continue to grow much as it has in the past few years — at a rate much faster than unit growth.

But of course we are headed into a ninth year of growth in what is historically a seven-year business cycle. It is entirely plausible that we are going to see a slowdown in the economy, or even a recession. Having said that, so much of our sales volume is taken up by the top-tier earners — those very folks who will benefit most from the personal and business tax cuts President-elect Trump has proposed. They will still have the money to buy boats. The table is set very differently than it was in the previous recession. People have more cash.

Boats have gotten softer and softer over the past few years, and that trend will continue as the natural result of an ever more affluent and older demographic. Companies that continue to invest heavily in new product that reflects this trend and continue to innovate will continue to dominate.

There is widespread agreement that the industry faces a critical shortage of skilled workers.

There is widespread agreement that the industry faces a critical shortage of skilled workers.

What will 2017 bring? Who knows? For what it’s worth, I’m committed to expand Maverick Boat Group and prepare for growth despite my concerns. We must, to meet current demand. We’re just going to do it in a very conservative fashion.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that government works best when it does the least. With all three branches with a Republican majority, there is the potential for government to do a lot. Let’s hope it’s a lot of good. President Bush had all three branches. We’re still in Iraq.

Bob Denison


President, Denison Yacht Sales

I like 2017 already. No election drama. A movie about emojis (finally). Less confusion on the docks of Miami.

The last one is a big deal. Confusion always sucks. For exhibitors. For show organizers. And for the people that matter the most — the boaters themselves. Hats off to IYBA (FYBA), NMMA and Show Management for communicating all year long and developing a solid game plan for a better Yachts Miami Beach on Collins and Miami Boat Show at Virginia Key. Now we just need the weather to be perfect and the parking to be free.

Speaking of associations hard at work, in 2017 I predict everyone benefits from the passing of a bill making it easier for Americans to buy foreign-built boats. Good news for brokers, shipyards and everyone else that benefits from a boat floating in the waters of their city.

Just think of the economic impact of a few hundred large yachts floating around the States, spending 13 percent of their value in the local economies they hang out in. Trump will take the credit, but be sure to tip your hat to IYBA (FYBA) and a bunch of other associations that worked hard to make this happen. Those “not for sale to U.S. residents” signs will be finally thrown away.

On the new-boat front, I predict some good and some bad in 2017. The bad: scarcity of new inventory. The good: West Coast new-boat sales double 2016 numbers.

On the brokerage side, my 2017 crystal ball shows growth in the catamaran and trawler categories, both supported by younger buyers than anyone expects for those markets.

In 2017, businesses will continue to consolidate as smaller firms come together to share best practices, marketing dollars and good technology.

Charter will continue to explode in the superyacht world as other shared-consumption models in the small-boat world continue to prove themselves. My favorite continues to be BoatSetter. Shortsighted dudes will complain it’s taking away from boat sales. The rest of us will love seeing new people fall in love with the water and get what that means for tomorrow.

In 2017 it will be easier for owners to take care of their boats. The Boatyard App is a great example of technology that makes it a lot less stressful for people to coordinate boat care. A few taps of your phone, and your boat is cleaned and ready to use. The more of this that happens, the less people we lose to things like skiing and other luxury travel.

I also look forward to more breakthroughs on the product front. Every year it seems like there’s a new thing. It might not be 2017, but right around the corner we’ll be able to push a button and our boat will dock itself. The old salts will roll their eyes, and klutzes like me will thank our lucky stars.

Ben Dorton

Ben Dorton

Ben Dorton

Business development manager, Brunswick Boat Group

As we end this year, we get closer to seeing the largest generation become independent and start careers, families and life choices. All of these are critical to the boating industry as baby boomers start moving out. The transition from baby boomer to Gen X was slightly natural, as Gen X idolized the baby boomers’ successes.

The millennial, on the other hand, has learned that “traditional” is not always safe. Most are old enough to have seen the recession wreck what was deemed safe: houses, stocks and careers.

This has directly impacted the thought processes of these young potential boat buyers. The tools we have to adjust to these new buyers are the four Ps: product, price, promotion and place. How will you use these?

Irene Dros


Maritime manager, METS Trade

When people ask me how the METS Trade Show keeps breaking records in terms of the number of exhibitors and visitors it attracts to Amsterdam each November, I always answer that cooperation is the key.

We have grown this B2B event by working closely with the people for whom it is intended. It may be something of a cliché, but co-creation really is the best way forward in the maritime world.

Over the decades, METS Trade has developed from a once-a-year trade show to a year-round bridge-building movement that spans the globe via the METS Trade online community. The willingness to share knowledge is crucial. I am convinced that partnerships enable us to achieve so much more and that those who are willing to embrace change always find new doors opening.

This point was clearly illustrated during the recession. Companies that invested in research and development and organizations that were open to innovation emerged stronger than ever.

Co-creation involves a willingness to forge genuine partnerships that benefit all concerned. They also require an ambitious approach that recognizes the need to think outside the box. A great recent example for us here at METS Trade was the decision to work together with IBI magazine to put on the first Boat Builders Awards last year. We believed in the concept from the outset, booking one of the most prestigious maritime buildings in Amsterdam for the gala dinner.

This was an instant hit, one that is based on people’s ideas, not products per se. Because we spoke the same language and had the same desire to innovate, the awards were even bigger and better this year.

The recently announced new partnership between METS Trade and IBEX is another fine example of co-creation. We could have rested on our laurels on either side of the Atlantic as leading events in our fields — in Europe and the States, respectively — but instead we have decided to work together on a range of exciting new ventures.

I believe the next generation of professionals coming into our industry will see things differently as a matter of course. Students no longer learn in isolation and expect to cooperate with their peers at home and around the world, face to face and online. They welcome change, and the focus is shifting from status and ownership to practical thinking and sharing. This is the future — and it’s an inspiring co-creative future, which METS Trade is glad to be a part of.

Anne Dunbar


Show director, International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference

This year the aisles of both IBEX and METS were humming with activity and positive energy, which always indicates a positive outlook for the year ahead. It was exciting to see a significant amount of game-changing product advancements and innovation on display, many of which will make being on the water easier, safer and more enjoyable.

Boats of all sizes are evolving to meet the needs of millennials and modern families with new levels of connectivity and comfort. This is exactly what our industry needs to do to excite and inspire a new crop of boat buyers to invest in a boating lifestyle.

I do feel our industry currently faces two significant challenges.

One is workforce development. We are seriously lacking in developing an all-industry collaborative effort to promote the benefits of careers in the marine industry. From the dealer level to boatbuilders, many are finding it difficult to find qualified or properly trained technical employees.

We need the infrastructure to sell, service and maintain the excellent products we build. Many state marine organizations and associations have excellent plans and programs in place already, but how to get all these entities working together for the greater good remains a challenge.

The other issue that concerns me is the responsibility of dealing with the more than a million abandoned boat hulls located in marinas and yards throughout the U.S. We build a great product that is meant to last, and it is our responsibility to deal with the waste and aftermath of that construction. If the auto industry can figure out how to succeed in a circular economy, then the marine industry needs to consider a plan to deal with old boats.

Jack Ellis


Managing director, Info-Link Technologies

This is the perfect year to prepare.

We can’t say for certain whether 2017 will be better than 2016 — nobody can — but we do expect the boating industry to experience another market correction in the foreseeable future. After five-plus years of steady growth, all of the evidence suggests 2017 will be yet another good year for our industry. The economy is humming along, the election is behind us, consumer confidence is relatively strong and, in most cases, new-boat field inventories are being well managed.

However, at the risk of being a killjoy, boating is a cyclical industry that has to catch its breath now and then.

Today we are sitting on solid footing, which provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on what the future might hold so we can start planning accordingly. Many companies began plotting their courses years ago. For the rest of us, time is on our side, but we do need to start considering how the boating market is apt to change in the coming years. At Info-Link, we foresee at least two major challenges/opportunities:

First, our core market — baby boomers and older Gen Xers who have been boating much of their adult lives — are not as nimble as they used to be, and some have changed their boating activities as their families evolved. Still, they are committed to the boating lifestyle and will likely continue participating as long as we can accommodate them.

Our industry has done a great job catering to this audience. There are a lot of them; they are living longer, healthier lives and there is no reason we can’t keep them aboard well into their 80s, and maybe beyond. We just have to anticipate their needs.

Meanwhile, there’s an even larger audience of millennials and younger Gen Xers, many of whom grew up boating. While their perception of what the boating lifestyle has to offer may be very similar to their parents’ generation, it is quite likely many will want to consume boating in a different way.

Figuring out how to adapt our products and services to attract this audience is going to be a more difficult challenge, but they are giving us plenty of signals with which to work. We know they are digitally intertwined, starting families later in life, and they have embraced the “sharing economy.” Many also feel that quality of life and new experiences are more important than possessing physical assets.

There is real hope for saltwater fisheries reform in the new year, thanks to a concerted lobbying effort by the boating and angling industries.

There is real hope for saltwater fisheries reform in the new year, thanks to a concerted lobbying effort by the boating and angling industries.

As an industry, we will need to listen to what these current and future customers want from boating and try to accommodate them. Those who can do so successfully will thrive, and any market corrections will be nothing more than bumps in the road. 2017 is likely to be another good year for boating, so this is definitely the year to start looking to the future and begin to prepare for the inevitable changes ahead.

Jim Frye


President emeritus, Association of Marina Industries; vice president, Westrec Marinas

Consolidation continues as the theme in the marina segment for 2017.

The aging demographic, widespread amongst marina owners, is fueling an interest in selling marinas. Matched by a growing appetite from equity investors seeking out new and unique markets for investment, we’ll continue to see a transition in how marinas are owned and managed.

In the past few months I’ve responded to many phone calls from “Wall Street firms” exploring the potential risks and rewards of an investment in the marina industry.

Growing consolidators like Safe Harbor, Suntex and Westrec are hoping to exploit this interest, building ever-larger portfolios with an eye on entering the public real estate marketplace. This corporate ownership and management will surely increase professionalism in the industry and presents an excellent opportunity for those marina operators looking to cash in on a sale of “the family asset.” There is opportunity, too, for those that aren’t quite ready to sell.

Marina investors must be careful to preserve what in my mind is the most important role of the marina operator, and that is the role as host of the boating experience. As boating competes with a growing number of demands on consumers’ time and money, we’ll have to work hard to preserve the value proposition of boating, especially for those boaters hosted at marinas.

Marina operators focused on enhancing and facilitating boat usage, not just storage, and those adding value in services and amenities will be the most successful. One doesn’t have to be part of a large marina chain to deliver big on customer service and the attention to detail that makes a marina first choice amongst today’s and tomorrow’s boaters.

I encourage marina operators in the coming year to explore new ways to welcome and host the new forms of boat ownership and uses that are growing in popularity, especially among millennials. Boat rental companies and boat clubs like Suntex and Freedom are offering access to boat ownership, as well as shared boating experiences like those hosted by Boatsetter and others.

Part of being an excellent host is adapting to the changing interests of our guests. The coming year will require that kind of growth and flexibility.

Wanda Kenton Smith


Chief marketing officer, Freedom Boat Club; president, Kenton Smith Marketing; president, Marine Marketers of America

The latest reports from key economic sources reveal U.S. consumer spending is up over the past 12 months. Jobs are on the rise, coupled with increases in take-home pay, with unemployment registering below 5 percent.

Manufacturing growth has been steady, albeit slow. These critical combined indicators bode well for boosting consumer confidence, obviously the necessary predicate for the purchase of discretionary goods and services.

While we are presently tracking toward a positive economic outlook for at least the first half of 2017, we’d all likely agree it wouldn’t require a seismic activity to quickly reverse the positive momentum. Any major unexpected activity or threat to our national security, a significant spike in interest rates and/or unemployment can all potentially trigger a downward spiral.

In the final analysis I’m cautiously optimistic about 2017, with the caveat that conditions can change on a dime.

Over the past seven years most of us have readjusted to the new norm. We’re leaner and hopefully much smarter from the hard lessons learned. Whatever tomorrow brings, we must continue to aggressively market and promote the benefits of the boating lifestyle.

Equally important, we must become more inclusive and welcoming to new markets (which include millennials) that clearly represent the future of this country. There are compelling, bottom-line business opportunities associated with these emerging markets that the industry cannot afford to ignore.

The industry would also do well to recognize and collaborate with boat clubs and other shared-economy providers that are successfully introducing newcomers into boating while also returning lapsed or aging boaters to the marketplace.

We must continually develop strategies to bring more people into boating, at whatever point of entry works best for their budgets and lifestyles.

Ryan Kloppe


Sales director, Statistical Surveys

As 2016 winds down it’s time again to look at trends from the passing year and see what’s in store for 2017. The 2016 numbers, when complete, will reflect a fifth straight year of growth in the marine industry — albeit moderate growth.

We did see some positive segment trends that continue to propel the industry forward. Pontoons, aluminum fish and fiberglass outboards will all be over 40,000 units, with PWC exceeding 55,000 units. Ski/wake is thriving, posting another double-digit gain from the previous year. Fiberglass sterndrives remain off pace from 2015, but have gained momentum in boats over 27 feet.

As we glance ahead, I believe 2017 will be a great year for the boating industry. Outboards continue to flourish, and we are now seeing more and more manufacturers offer outboard options. Manufacturers are also developing boats for the rapidly growing ski/wake segment.

Looking at 2016 in the RV industry, which SSI also tracks, they posted another double-digit gain, beating pre-recession numbers. This is a good sign for the marine industry because the trends tend to mimic each other. Barring any big economic impact, the marine industry in 2017 will make a splash, posting its sixth straight year of sustained growth in the 3 to 6 percent range.

The marine industry did a great job with inventory in 2016, producing great turn rates. Affordability, time management, industry employment and demographics continue to be the hot points in our industry.

For continued success in 2017, the marine industry will have to develop new, innovative products that keep up with consumer demand and continue marketing the amazing boating lifestyle to all generations and demographics.

Joan Maxwell


President, Regulator Marine

As an industry, we get the privilege of building memories for our customers. As we saw during the Great Recession, boaters didn’t stop boating; they simply repaired, boated close to home and continued to make memories with their families. We’re grateful that as their confidence returned, so did their ability to purchase new boats.

What will 2017 bring? Economic indicators — especially gasoline prices and consumer confidence — are expected to remain at their current levels. These two factors, along with the stock market at all-time highs, have great impact on our recreational businesses.

Retail sales reports indicate that boats continue moving through the pipeline, so I see many reasons to believe that the marine industry will experience another great year.

Here at Regulator we are bullish on 2017. With the recent addition of new dealers in new markets and demand from our current dealer network, we are preparing to add additional shifts to our manufacturing process. We believe 2017 promises to be our best year yet!

Rob Parmentier


President and CEO, Marquis-Larson Boat Group

As we look ahead into 2017 at Marquis-Larson Boat Group we are confident 2017 will be much like 2016, but show some signs of progress and momentum.

The overall market will show single-digit growth. I believe the market growth leaders will continue to be offshore fish, freshwater fish and pontoons. Towboats also will continue to hit it out of the park. Although runabout manufacturers, us included, are shifting product development and model mix to outboard power, we cannot affect the slide and size of the sterndrive market.

I, too, think we will begin to see a shift in manufacturing, as well. As segments in our industry and international markets continue to tighten due to the continued strength of the U.S. dollar and rising manufacturing costs, we believe small brands will look to larger organizations with the capacity to create contract build relationships to elevate overhead and capacity.

At Marquis-Larson Group we have been successful at developing win-win contract build relationships with several different brands. We see this trend continuing into 2017 and into the future as the boating industry continues on our current course.

Furthermore, as the nation resets itself after the election and transition of power, the potential for increased spending is out there. The talk of tax reductions to benefit both businesses and individuals could increase discretionary spending power.

I do not expect the market and buyers to come out in droves like in the mid-’90s, but I would expect the boating industry to see an uptick in sales, interest and activity as everyone might have a few extra dollars in their pockets and bank accounts.

Frank Peterson


President and CEO, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

Every day I read a new report about how our world is changing — changes in demographics, changes in technology and changes in how we interact with one another. We live in a 24/7 streaming, on-demand and interactive world, and we have to accept the fact that the old ways of reaching people and selling to them won’t necessarily work anymore.

The boating and fishing industries are at a crossroads. I believe we have about 10 years to course-correct — to change the way in which we market the sport to reach new, emerging audiences — and we need to act now. We have to find a way to operate in real time while allowing for cultural shifts.

In 2016 we saw encouraging participation trends. Newcomers picked up the sport at a greater rate, 44 percent of those new participants were female, and participation among the U.S.’s fastest-growing population, Hispanics, also increased.

Fishing license sales increased for the second year in a row, and boat registrations increased for the first time in six years. However, while fishing was the second-most-popular outdoor activity among adults, fishing participation as a whole remained stagnant.

I believe boating and fishing are poised for growth in 2017, and we are at a time where the entire industry needs to unite under one clear goal. RBFF has taken the charge, energizing the industry with a new aspirational goal to increase angler participation from the 46 million current anglers to 60 million in 60 months.

The “60 in 60” goal calls for all members of the fishing and boating community to commit to engaging new audiences, including Hispanics, women and youth, and to implement effective angler and boater recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) efforts.

Achieving that 60-million-angler mark could have exciting results. A $200 million annual increase in license sales would contribute much-needed funds for conservation efforts by our state agencies. Additionally, 14 million new anglers and 7.5 million new boaters would bring along a $35 billion increase and a $10 billion increase in economic contributions, respectively.

With a recovering economy, encouraging signs in angler participation, industry collaboration and support, we can make boating and fishing participation thrive for many years to come. Learn what you can do to help at

Steve Pizzolato


Founder and CEO, Avala Marketing Group

Looking back on 2016, we can see a relatively accurate picture of what we can expect 2017 to look like. Today, consumers can educate themselves on your products before buying, making traditional marketing tactics less helpful than they have been historically. Prospects aren’t completing online lead forms unless they really want to, so OEMs need to understand prospects’ invisible shopping interest.

OEMs will need to use better predictive marketing in 2017 to track consumers’ buying interest. Predictive marketing is a method used to extract key insights from existing customer/prospect data sets to forecast future outcomes or purchase behaviors. Tools will be available to manufacturers that will make it possible to track consumer activity on your website after they engage with your email content.

We have seen an increase in close rates of over 60 percent, on average, when using predictive marketing. When evaluating OEM ROI, the average increase was over 150 percent.

In 2017, it is imperative OEMs track the invisible buyer by providing the sales team with real-time browsing behavior. So, even if your consumer is doing research about your boating products on your website without submitting a lead capture form, you’ll still be able to tell if these passive leads are interested in your product.

In 2017, the boating brands that will be successful will be ones that utilize advanced analytical tools to track the invisible buyer.

Phil Purcell


Executive director, Marine Industries Association of South Florida

Created in 1961, the Marine Industries Association of South Florida is a not-for-profit trade association focused on the sound growth of the marine industry in the South Florida region, which supports approximately 136,000 jobs and drives an economic output of $11.5 billion.

The MIASF recently received approval to become the first recreational marine Foreign Trade Zone in the United States. Sixteen companies have been designated as restricted-access sites and as such can defer, reduce, or eliminate customs duties on foreign products.

The FTZ label will allow individuals and marine industry companies to move and display vessels or components during showcase season for up to four months without paying import duties, perform repairs and add value to merchandise within the FTZ without paying sales and excise taxes, retain country-of-origin status for products maintained in the FTZ and save all duties and taxes payable at importation if the vessel is titled outside the country. These additional options for the marine industry will ensure this is an active job sector for many years.

Jobs are an important aspect of the marine industry as many of our legacy craftsmen begin to age out and we look to the millennials as integral to building the new workforce. To that end the MIASF has developed a video series titled “Salty Jobs,” where we showcase an industry-specific job in a five- to 10-minute episode. Hosted by MIASF development director Sean Smith, the series has been developed to appeal to a younger audience and is being promoted through social media, CareerSource Broward and other educational media outlets.

The feedback has been extremely positive, with dozens of companies anxious to participate and provide information on the types of jobs available, which typically pay 28 percent higher than the state average.

With the passage of a $60,000 cap on sales tax for refits and repairs, we continue to see impressive growth in projects from around the world arriving at many of our local boatyards. This increased work provides stability and consistency to the job market for thousands of mechanics, electricians, carpenters, welders, plumbers and dozens of other skilled labor groups.

Tow boats have helped lead the industry’s comeback, thanks to a continuing enthusiasm for skiing and wakeboarding.

Tow boats have helped lead the industry’s comeback, thanks to a continuing enthusiasm for skiing and wakeboarding.

Additionally the recent completion of the dredge of the Intracoastal Waterway has provided capacity for larger ships and yachts to be able to navigate the waterway and get to the marinas and boatyards for services like provisioning, fuel, repairs and redesigns.

As owners of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the largest in-water boat show in the world with an economic benefit of $857 million, MIASF recently secured the future production of the five-day event by signing a 30-year agreement with Show Management, the producers of FLIBS.

We are also pleased to partner with other organizations that positively impact our community, like Habitat for Humanity and Mission United, where we plan to sponsor a home build for a military veteran family, and the Broward County/Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, which is spearheading the creation of South Florida as a global marine research hub with Florida International University, the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University.

The future is bright for the marine industry as we continue to advocate for our members on regulatory issues, help to protect and promote good-paying jobs and lead the way in giving back to our community.

Ben Speciale


President, Yamaha Marine Group

Even though 2016 was an election year, we have seen GDP growth, a rising stock market and improvement in employment. With the unexpected election results, most businesses are now trying to absorb what the outcome means for the future; most Yamaha customers seem positive about it.

We have to remember that historically, post-recession growth has been slow but steady. Past recessions were often followed by spikes of economic growth. Could that be what’s in store for us in the next few years? Only time will tell. Either way, Yamaha Marine remains focused on our core plan for our dealers, boatbuilders and boating consumers.

We will continue to introduce the next generations of lightweight, powerful 4-stroke outboards. The expanded 2016 Yamaha product line included new V MAX SHO models, a new F350C V8 with a five-year limited warranty, a new F2.5 portable outboard and expanded models tied to our lightweight F200 platform. These products have been very successful for our customers and Yamaha.

For 2017 we will roll out even more new models and platforms.

At Yamaha Marine, it is not only about products. Our approach includes a superior level of service for consumers. It starts with ensuring technicians have the necessary training for our dealers, which is why we expanded our training capacity by nearly 40 percent in 2016.

Long-term, we as an industry need to continue to expand our involvement in government affairs. We have a great industry. With a new administration in place, we need to increase our efforts to educate politicians on proper engine regulation and manufacturing regulations.

We also need to continue to stand up for the rights of anglers who fish in both salt water and fresh water. Maybe, with the new administration, we can help better shape the future by working closely with industry associations, including NMMA, ASA, RFA and the Center for Coastal Conservation, which was recently rebranded as the Center for Sportfishing Policy.

If we join forces with these organizations and speak with one voice we can continue to see growth for our industry, protect our livelihoods and conserve the environment for future generations.

Peter Truslow


CEO, Bertram Yachts

There is guarded optimism throughout the U.S. marine industry.

I come from the outboard boat business, so I have enjoyed the steady rise of that segment since 2010. At Bertram I am pleased to see that the inboard and yacht markets are also in recovery mode. Our new 35 Bertram has hit a nerve in the market for people who want a classic design with modern technology and performance.

I am optimistic about the years ahead because of the strength of the U.S. economy and because basic supply and demand support steady growth as the “fleet replenishes.”

It was interesting working the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show right before the election. As the media questioned “Who voted for Trump?” it was clear that the marine industry was solidly behind Trump. Boatbuilders and boat buyers are mostly independent businesspeople who relate to Trump’s rebellious style and his pro-business policies.

Time will tell how the new administration works out for our business. A reduction in government regulations and a simpler tax code will be good for boatbuilders and suppliers. The strengthening dollar is a real concern because it is tougher to compete at home and abroad with the cheaper imports.

Premier brands like Bertram have always been big exporters. Policies to reduce immigration and increase government spending on infrastructure will hurt our businesses because finding good workers is a major problem for all boatbuilders.

The craziness of our fast-paced world reinforces why owning a boat is so great. There is no better way to enjoy friends, family and nature than on a boat.

Nicole Vasilaros


Vice president of federal and legal affairs,

National Marine Manufacturers Association

It should come as no surprise that 2017 will be a year of significant policy change as President-elect Donald Trump and his new administration enter the White House and we welcome the 115th Congress. Sixty new members of Congress are entering the freshman class of representatives and senators.

With a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, there is fertile ground for the Trump administration to achieve significant overhauls on numerous policies. That said, it’s expected we’ll see healthy debate within the Senate since its Republican majority is slim (51 vs. 46) and the decisions of just one senator can have significant impact.

Additionally, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who was elected Senate minority leader, has commented that a “silver lining in the deep clouds of this election is that President-elect Trump and his campaign were closer to us [on the economic issue] than to the Republican leadership.”

As a result, the relationship between Schumer, Trump, and the Republican majority will be one to watch. To that end Trump’s ability to cross party lines and develop a bipartisan consensus will be critical to his success.

Key issues the Trump administration and 115th Congress are expected to tackle include reforming the tax code, repealing health care and investing significantly in infrastructure.

Tackling any one of these issues will be a challenge, let alone all three. But the first 100 days are likely to provide the best shot at sweeping reform.

On NMMA’s radar is protecting the manufacturing, sales and management environment for the more than 35,000 small businesses in our industry as tax reform takes shape. We’ll need to be diligent in guarding certain deductions, such as second-home mortgage interest.

What’s more, the damage done to our industry following the luxury tax makes us extra-watchful on tax reform. We’ll also closely watch President-elect Trump’s actions on limiting trade, given the critical importance of international trade for marine manufacturers.

A potential opportunity for recreational boating will be capitalizing on infrastructure/jobs legislation that supports boating access and outdoor recreation. And NMMA will be pushing for Congress to take action and fix the EPA’s broken mandate on ethanol.

In addition, with the loss of 14 members of the Congressional Boating Caucus during the 2016 cycle, including House co-chairs Candice Miller and Patrick Murphy, NMMA is working to find new leadership who will champion recreational boating on behalf of the millions of boaters in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of jobs our industry supports.


It is more important than ever for individuals in our industry to get involved in advocacy. There are two key ways manufacturers and dealers can protect their business: attend the American Boating Congress, May 15-17 in Washington, D.C., and contact Erica Crocker at to sign up to receive information on your local representatives through BoatPAC.

I’m not exaggerating when I say every voice matters.

Bill Yeargin


CEO, Correct Craft

2017 will be a catalytic year. It will be the year we begin to sharpen our focus on many things, including:

Globalization — The world is becoming much smaller and is largely connected. World economies are growing and interdependent. Many in the U.S. do not like the thought of globalization since we have largely dominated the world stage for decades, but it does not matter what we think — the U.S. represents only 5 percent of the world’s consumers.

Globalization is already happening and is irreversible. We will become more dependent on international customers and, for the first time in history, most of the marine industry will soon need to focus on international competitors. Instead of fighting globalization we need to well position ourselves for its inevitability.

Workforce — The U.S. is heading toward a workforce crisis. With a growing economy and retiring baby boomers, this problem is clear; it’s just math. Many business owners and CEOs already describe finding good employees as their biggest challenge, and it is going to get worse. We need to increase our efforts at both developing future workers and introducing students to marine manufacturing. And finally, we need a good national immigration policy that allows workers to come into our country.

Energy — We are on the verge of a significant transition in how we generate and use energy and it will impact all areas of our lives, including the products we build. For years people have wondered about the energy of the future, but now we know — it is photovoltaic.

Technology — We are on the verge of unimaginable technological advancements that will dramatically change our businesses and all other aspects of our lives. Artificial intelligence, biometrics, nanotechnology, robotics, 3D printing and the Internet will each impact our businesses in a big way. It will put some companies out of business and bring new companies into our industry. Advancing technology will change the definition of cybersecurity and make it even more important.

Demographics — There has been much written about this but, once again, it comes down to math. Differing birthrates will impact the look of our country as the Hispanic population continues to work its way toward eventually being a majority in the U.S. Millennials, whose different views on work and life have been well documented, are close to being a majority of the U.S. workforce and will soon be working their way into political and business leadership.

2017 will springboard us into a future that is much different than the world we live in today. These changes will have a huge impact on both our industry and our businesses. I believe smart businesses will use 2017 to prepare for a dramatically different world. Hold on! It’s going to be a wild ride!

Efrem ‘Skip’ Zimbalist III


President, Show Management

There are many reasons to be optimistic about the market for recreational boats and yachts in the coming year. There are also a few reasons for caution and concentrated effort.

On the positive side, I would list five major factors:

  1. We are ending the year on a very positive note. Sales at fourth-quarter boat shows were particularly strong, with many exhibitors at FLIBS saying it was their best show ever or best show since 2006 in terms of signed contracts and quality of leads.
  2. In no small part, this is due to increased consumer confidence. The November readings are at a six-month high and are approaching levels last reached in 2006. The future will most likely bring moderate increases in inflation and interest rates, which I believe will have a net positive impact on boat sales. The increasing value of real estate and income from investments will go a long way toward pushing confidence even higher. Of course, the cost of borrowing money and producing domestic boats will increase, as well. But on balance the environment should be more positive for the industry.
  3. The pace of innovation continues as great new products are introduced to the market and produced in volume.
  4. Through the efforts of marine associations, many local and state governments have a renewed appreciation for the importance of the marine industry and are taking concrete steps to foster growth. Caps on sales taxes and investment in infrastructure and dredging are just two examples.
  5. A variety of economic and geopolitical issues around the globe make the U.S. the market of choice for buyers and sellers.

Reasons for caution and concentrated effort include:

  1. The EPA’s new mandates for increased ethanol content and use of catalytic converters have the potential to put a serious crimp in new-boat sales. The goal of improved emissions is shared by all. More ethanol does not improve the situation and can create serious safety issues. And converters that work in the recreational environment have not yet been invented.
  2. We need to do a better job of balancing imports and exports of boats and engines. In 2015 boat exports fell to an 11-year low. Boat imports grew for the fifth consecutive year. For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. was a net importer of boats. By one measure, all of the 2015 growth in new-boat sales was absorbed by imports. This is a complex problem that needs to be attacked on multiple fronts. But the trends are not good and deserve a concerted effort by all.
  3. The growth of the repairs, production and maintenance side of our industry requires a workforce educated in technical skills. Increasingly, jobs are going unfilled because of the lack of qualified applicants. We need to work closely with the appropriate educational institutions to promote the attractiveness of careers in the marine industry and help them develop curricula to address our needs.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.



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1. 2023 new boat retail outlook

Too Many High-Priced Boats

To wrap up 2022, marine retailers reported lower demand, expressed more negative sentiment and voiced concerns about rising inventory. Boat prices and the economy remained top of mind for dealers in December.

Soundings Nov 2022

New-Boat Registrations Continue to Slide

As the gaudy sales figures from the pandemic continue to return to more realistic numbers, the main segments of the recreational boating industry saw new-model registrations of 4,421 in November, a 30.3% drop from 6,340 during the same time in 2021. .