US boating industry afloat with entry level newcomers

Miami International Boat Show pavilons.
Tom McAfee
Organisers of this year’s Miami International Boat Show report many reasons to feel buoyant, thanks to a surge in consumer confidence and spending, plus innovations that are proving appealing to a broader market.

According to Cathy Rick-Joule, vice president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association Boat Shows Division and the Miami show manager, based on boat shows that took place earlier this year in other parts of the country, buyers are out and sales have improved across the board.

The latest figures from the manufacturers association indicate that entry-level buyers and boaters looking for new fishing and family cruising boats are leading a recovery for the industry.

Through the second quarter of 2011, retail sales of outboard boats, which include aluminum fishing and pontoon boats, and small cruising boats are up 6 percent over last year.

Other news that raises the hopes of the boating industry include the fact that of the 231.5 million adults living in the U.S. in 2010, 32 percent, or 75 million people, went boating. The NMMA said this is the highest proportion of participation since 1999, when 33.4 percent of adults were boating participants.

Sales of new outboard boats, including aluminum fishing, pontoon, and small fiberglass cruising boats, are up 6 percent through the second quarter of 2011.

Manufacturers anticipate continued growth in entry-level outboard fishing and cruising boats; through September shipments to dealers are up 18 percent over last year.

Manufacturers are betting on a growing interest in ski and wakeboard boats; through September, shipments to dealers are up 20 percent over last year.

Manufacturers are designing boats that are family-friendly, easier and more fun to use (joystick docking, fish finders, built-in GPS), more affordable (improved fuel efficiency), environmentally friendly (reduced emissions), and offer custom-options to suit individual needs (wakeboard/ski mounts, fishing mounts, specialized sound systems).