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Show owners take steps to growing industry

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In an effort to keep Fort Lauderdale known as the Yachting Capital of the World, the owners of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show have commissioned a market research company to find out just who boats and why, and what the industry can do to attract more of them.


The first phase of the research was released this week as the show began. The key finding was that although participation in boating across the U.S. is high, boat ownership is relatively low.


There are myriad reasons for that, and the complexities of deciphering what those statistics mean will be key to making a plan to grow boating, said Nate Fristoe, director of RRC Associates, a market research and consulting firm in Colorado that specializes in recreation and travel. Boat show owners Marine Industries Association of South Florida hired RRC to help it quantify the growth potential of the industry over the next 10-15 years.


While this level of research didn’t make distinctions based on sizes of vessels, the data offered some insights for the megayacht sector.


The good news is that boating participation is relatively high, about 31 percent of the U.S. population, which makes it more than twice as high as any other sport. (Golf, for example, is about 8.1 percent; tennis is about 9 percent.)


Participation has consistently grown since 1990, but ownership has declined. The data is further complicated by the reality that although there have been declining unit sales, prices have increased.


The idea with the research is to develop a framework for translating participation into engagement and then translating engagement into ownership.


The boating population is aging, so one key strategy must be to engage younger boaters. One of the things the research discovered is that powerboaters were first introduced by their parents or grandparents when they were 10 or younger. Sailors were first introduced after age 18, mostly by friends.


Overall about 20 percent of Florida boaters indicate they have introduced 35 or more people to the sport over the course of their lives. But 8 percent indicated they have not ever introduced a single person to boating.


“Leveraging the influence of existing boaters will be an important strategy moving forward,” Fristoe said.


This is the first phase of the research, accumulating and synthesizing data. The next phase is to review the key findings with industry stakeholders and get feedback. Then the company will refine the research and finally develop an action plan to grow the industry.


Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of Triton Today; lucy@the-triton.com.

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