Top 10 trends shaping U.S. Boating in 2022 and beyond
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted many businesses and countless lives around the world. Despite this, the outcomes differed across regions and industries. The boating industry is one of the few industries that has substantially benefitted in these turbulent times, registering an unexpected boom and rapid growth across all markets and segments, especially in the US. Currently, the whole industry is going through a significant mindset shift and technological transformation that will not only shape the industry in 2022 but also in the years to come.
The recreational boating market reaches a new high
Boat sales have been on the rise since 2012, however, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a significant increase: during lockdowns, boat demand shot up as more and more people considered boats a safe way of spending quality time outdoors with family, friends, or even by themselves. Moreover, due to the industry's recent innovations, vessels are now more sophisticated, easier to navigate and dock (with joystick controls, automatic docking, cell phone connection, and so many other advantages), and more attractive in what comes to design and decor, providing owners and guests incredible levels of comfort, performance, and safety.
Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, boat sales have been skyrocketing, which shows that consumer confidence has never been higher. Besides, the development of membership programs and boat subscription services have been helpful to establish a deep bond between consumers and companies, luring the former, especially the most wealthy ones, into the boating market. By paying a yearly fee and monthly subscriptions, members can access a wide fleet of boats at their local clubs, programs specially tailored for customer convenience, in which boats are cleaned, gassed, and available waiting in the marinas to be used.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) data, the total boat sales hit 286,000 units in 2018 in the US, whereas in 2020, new boat sales reached the impressive number of 318,550 units. Particular segments like recreational boat markets as for instance pontoons, large, safe, and comfortable boats mainly used for entertainment, fishing, or lounging, have been growing exponentially especially in the segment of first-time buyers, and are expected to hit a new landmark in the next five years, with estimated sales close to US$ 2.5-billion by 2025, as one of the fastest growth boat markets in the post-pandemic era.
By 2025, family and friend activities are anticipated to become the dominant segment in the US market, a market where watercraft partying and vacation culture may help explain the preference for this type of vessel and the increase in its sales. However, pontoons have also acquired a considerable market share by allowing boaters to carry out many other leisure activities such as fishing. Gminsights reported that the recreational boating market reached USD 35 billion in 2020 and it is likely to grow at over 6.5% CAGR between 2021 and 2027, as a result of an increasing disposable income for leisure boating activities both in Europe and North America.
On the one hand, Covid-19 has changed how people see their mortality, while, on the other hand, the lack of travel led to the desire to get away from crowds and stay isolated. Boats happen to be the best vehicles for that purpose, which ultimately has been beneficial for the industry boom. So much has changed in such a short period.
2022 and Beyond: Top 10 Boating Trends
Let us now delve into the key trends emerging in the industry from a year of radical change that was 2021 and that will be shaping 2022 and the future years to come.
Many people love to fish for a living: fishing is still the number one activity carried out on a boat, and many anglers prefer to take their family on the boat with them. Hence, fishing boat sales are expected to increase in 2022, after numbers have dropped in the last few years, and so are fishing accessories.
Family activities are on the rise and are already the fourth largest category in what comes to rentals and also boat sales, behind fishing, touring, and day-cruising. These trends open new opportunities for the industry as boaters require their vessels to be well-equipped and even customized to their basic needs.
The boat market is becoming more diverse: more ethnic are buying boats nowadays, and boating is also capturing the interest of more women. In the US alone, Hispanic boaters now account for a substantial part of the market. In 2020, for the first time in more than a decade in the US, the number of first-time boat buyers increased, reaching a total of 100,000 people that bought their very first boat (30% of all buyers). Most of them chose smaller boats they could tow to their vehicles and easily use in different types of water activities.
A growing interest in rental
The boat-rental industry is increasing at such a rapid rate that it is expected to keep growing during the next 5 years and the interest in it is a new reality across multiple segments, from fishing vessels to yachts, with Millennials and women showing significantly more interest in this type of service.
Now that electric cars are already a reality, electric watercraft is still in their infancy. Candela Boats, Alva Yachts, Greenline, and Silent Yachts are some of the big names innovating in this field. Greenline Yachts, one of the first players in this segment, already offers a wide range of hybrid boats and yachts. While it is true that electric vessels still have their limitations mostly regarding speeds, as well as a lower range, boaters can easily recharge power with the help of a generator and/or solar panels, turning their boats into smart boats.
Lighter and stronger materials
Currently, brands are starting to use lighter and stronger construction materials that allow boats to deliver the best speeds and increase their hydrodynamics such as carbon fiber and composite instead of common materials like fiberglass and wood that typically help boats be more stable and less likely to drift while navigating.
The recreational boating industry boom has also started to attract many water sports enthusiasts that use boats for water sport activities such as water skiing. Among these, millennial and post-millennial generations are currently manifesting a growing interest in towboats, boats typically used in wake surfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and other sports of the kind. Even though water sports still account for a small market share of the leisure industry, its share is expected to grow in the next few years.
More safety and boat maintenance
Unfortunately, the increase in boat demand also meant more accidents. Luckily, manufacturers keep innovating and equipping watercraft with new technology to provide safety for both boat operators and passengers. A great example of this is the introduction of the kill switch, an engine cut-off switch that is now mandatory on personal vessels and on most small boats. On the other hand, diversifying services such as providing parts and related maintenance services can help companies capture clients. Boats need to be properly maintained year after year since boat parts and systems eventually wear down and need to be replaced.
Boats are not precisely cheap. That is why the average age of boat buyers tended to be over 50 years old. However, as the traditional target gets older and younger generations start to have a growing interest in water activities and boats mainly because of the recent technological improvements, manufacturers need to consider new markets and different targets, to be able to attract the younger generations. The Visits to Discover Boating, a consumer resource run by NMMA, reported that the 18 to 24 years old segment has registered a YoY growth of 90%, while the segment 24 to 35 years old was by far the largest segment. Each year, in the US alone, about a third of its population, that is about 100 million people, go boating, hence, the traditional boat buyer has evolved.
With global warming impacting the environment and decreasing water supplies in lakes and other water sources, water use is now facing tougher rules aimed mostly to decrease the number of boats on the water, the pollution, and the number of accidents they generate, which ultimately obliges owners to wait to get permits to access many water sources.
The recent changes in this industry, especially during pandemic times, and the continual improvements of technological development and design, mean the current boom to carry on for a very long time. In the short term, keeping up with supply will eventually become the biggest challenge for the boating industry, since it relies on many other related industries to grow its business. Yet, manufacturers are not scared and expect to meet their production forecasts in 2022. These are exciting times for everyone who embraces boating as a lifestyle.
At Boatim, we are boat and water enthusiasts ourselves and cannot wait to see what the near future holds for the industry. Faithful to our motto, “Life is better on the water”, we work hard to provide everyone with the right tools that simplify the buying and selling processes, save them time, and get people on the water faster.