It’s been a torrid few years for the Spanish marine sector, but as the country’s economy finally shows signs of revival, prospects are now looking up.

The Spanish boating market was all but decimated during the global financial crisis, but an improved national economy fuelled by a boom in tourism and new maritime laws introduced in late 2014 to help kick-start the industry have led to a slight rebound of sorts.

It is estimated that the Spanish market is down by around 85-90% compared to pre-crisis levels, with only a handful of boatbuilders left in business – Rodman, Astondoa and a few others that are building niche products in relatively low numbers.

The Barcelona Boat Show, which at its height attracted around 600 exhibitors and nearly 150,000 visitors when it ran for 10 days across two venues, is a shadow of its former self. Today it pulls in less than half that number during its five-day run – an indication of just how much the market has changed.

But many are unperturbed. Show organiser Fira de Barcelona, working in collaboration with Spanish marine industry association ANEN, worked hard to deliver a first-class show in 2016, creating a new space for 20 technological entrepreneurs and start-up firms to display their latest innovations. An extensive programme of activities was also introduced in an attempt to help drive the industry forward.

José Luis Fayos, ANEN’s technical and export manager, told IBI that signs of an upturn are driven in part by renewed confidence. “All the feedback that I’ve had from dealers, distributors and other marine companies is really good,” he says. “We’ve had some very difficult years, but things are finally starting to improve a little bit. The economy’s picking up, and the new licensing scheme that we developed two years ago has made it much easier for people to get into boating.”

In late 2014, the Spanish government overhauled the country’s boat licensing scheme, abolishing license requirements for sailboats under 6m and motorboats under 5m with a horsepower limit of 15hp (11.26kW), provided they stay within two miles of the harbour and are used for day cruising.

The move has provided added impetus to a stagnating market that is crying out for new blood, making it easier for people to get out on the water. After six years of steep sales declines, Spain is finally seeing some positive results.

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