Tackle boost as recreational boating on the up

The fishing and boating industry is in good shape as the first quarter of 2023 comes to an end, with sales looking set to rise once more.

In the US alone, the recreational boating industry is worth a cool $170 billion, with those fishing from their boats accounting for more than $50 billion, supporting around 4.5 million jobs.

And other countries are also seeing the value of these two sectors together – the UK was due to host a major angling section at its new BoatLife show in February, with key brands taking part.

As the curtain comes down on three months of boating shows – attracting an estimated two million visitors– the US-based National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is predicting healthy retail sales of boats and equipment for 2023, as Americans continue to enjoy outdoor activities.

Historically, these shows generate between a third and half of annual revenues for retailers and manufacturers.

In 2021, the industry enjoyed what the NMMA called “extraordinary demand” with the second highest spending in more than 20 years. While 2022 returned to more ‘normal’ levels, this is still 25 per cent above averages a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the latest data from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), released in November, shows the outdoor recreation economy has seen record-breaking years, sustaining remarkable growth despite navigating a post-pandemic environment.

In 2021, outdoor recreation generated $862 billion in economic output, accounting for 1.9 percent of U.S. GDP, making it a larger contributor than agriculture, extraction of oil and gas, and mining. Outdoor recreation also supported 4.5 million American jobs.

Even more importantly, recreational boating and fishing are understood to be the number one contributor to the near billion-dollar US outdoor recreation economy, surpassing RVing, hunting and other outdoor activities.

The NMMA – whose members account for around 80 per cent of boats, engines, trailers and allied accessories – also revealed that key areas which had been especially driving sales growth in 2022 included entry-level items such as personal watercraft, freshwater aluminium and fibreglass fishing boats, as well as smaller pontoon boats.

Shows both in the US and the UK have been focused on the latest product innovations and technologies while also working hard to engage potential first-time boat buyers while also providing an inspirational space for existing owners.

Ellen Bradley, senior vice president of marketing and communications for NMMA, added: “We’ve done extensive research to better understand boaters of today and tomorrow and local boat shows are a consistent favourite given the sense of community they create by bringing together boaters of all interests, access to all local dealers and new boat models in one place, the ability to board and buy boats, shop the newest gear and be immersed in education and experiences—they take pop-up retail and social meet-ups to the next level.”

The UK’s BoatLife show also reported strong visitor numbers and had detailed a special ‘Angling Village’ as part of the event.

Hailed as a fantastic opportunity to become fully immersed in the sport, the area hosted a variety of stands, boats, equipment and a stage, with several key exhibitors, including Angling Spirit, which runs the Sea Angling Classic and the World Predator Classic, along with the Angling Trust, Cox & Rawle, Suzuki, WetWheels and Hobie.

BoatLife Events MD Richard Dove said: “We are excited to be showcasing the new Angling Village which we had no doubt would be a very popular area and packed with atmosphere. Fishing is certainly a national pastime in the UK and to further augment that experience with so many opportunities and great brands is a real privilege for SBS BoatLife 2023.”