While leisure marine firms in Holland continue to struggle with weak domestic demand, exports are helping to lift sales in a slowly recovering market

Bestevaer 45ST Pure

The Bestevaer 45ST Pure from KM Yachtbuilders

Signs of stabilisation in the Dutch leisure marine market were evident at this year’s HISWA Amsterdam In-Water Boat Show (August 30 to September 4), where more than 23,500 people gathered to see the latest innovations on offer.

Attendance was up by 17.5% over the previous year, marking a strong turning point for the industry and providing added impetus to companies that have been struggling since the onset of the crisis with weak domestic demand.

Michelle Jonker, project manager of the HISWA show, says the increase in attendance is clear evidence that “market conditions are improving. Satisfied exhibitors and visitors make us confident about the future.”

But how much weight can be placed on a number? According to the latest government figures, the consumer confidence index in the Netherlands has been above zero since the start of 2015, but the ‘willingness to buy’ index is still below that figure.

Jeroen van den Heuvel, manager of the HISWA marine trade association, told IBI that 25% of his member companies expect better times in 2016 while 25% expect worse. The rest expect it to be the same as the year before. “The domestic market is still under pressure,” he says. “Boat importers are reporting negative growth.”

The value of boats imported to the Netherlands fell by 36.6% in 2015 to $70.2m. Sailboat imports were worst hit, with sales of vessels under 12m down 29.4% to $3.5m and 12m-plus sales plunging 94% to $1.9m.

Domestic market under pressure

An ageing boating population and large numbers of second-hand boats exported for use outside the country have also affected business at Dutch marinas, where occupancy rates remain low. “Suppliers, engine importers and rental firms are reporting better than average business, but marinas and boat importers are struggling,” says van den Heuvel. “Boatbuilders that export or sell their products to foreigners in the Netherlands, like Germans, are doing much better.”

Marine firms in the Netherlands grew turnover by 0.5% in 2015 to $2.1bn, with exports in the third and fourth quarters helping to lift sales. Boat exports were up by 17.4% to $472.4m for the full year.

Dutch boatbuilders have always had a strong reputation in international markets, thanks to their innovative, high-quality work and reliable service. And there was no shortage of innovation on display at this year’s HISWA show, with 65 new boats making their market premiere – a five-year record for the show at Amsterdam Marina. Highlights included the much-anticipated debut of the DutchCatTwelve from new entrant DutchCat, Super Lauwersmeer’s Discovery 45 Flybridge (the first flybridge model in the yard’s 47-year history), and KM Yachtbuilders’ Bestevaer 45ST Pure – the only Dutch yacht to be nominated for a 2017 European Yacht of the Year award.

Note: This is an excerpt of the country report published in the November issue of IBI magazine. IBI Plus subscribers can download the full report from our website.