A downturn in the South African leisure boat market has prompted a prominent marine accessories specialist to diversify into the camping and caravanning market, the South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX) reports.

Knysna-based marine accessories specialists BG Boat Parts says the company had no choice but to branch out into new terrain due to a slowdown in domestic demand for their broad range of marine products, which include custom-made parts for the leisure market, SABBEX reports in their August newsletter.

“The boating industry has quietened down drastically over the past few years, hence the change,” BG Boat Parts managing director Robbie Bevan told SABBEX.

BG Parts manufactures and supplies a large range of fittings for keelboats, sailing dinghies, power boats, semi-ridged inflatables, canoes and kayaks.

Other marine stakeholders have also expressed concern recently about the largely stagnant recreational boating market, despite much optimism around the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new President. An initial period of ‘Ramaphoria’, which saw a resurgence in boat sales, has subsided due to underlying economic difficulties, among them currency volatility and labour market instability.

A growth in camping and caravanning may itself be an indicator of economic ‘down-scaling’ – among people who might previously have frequented hotels and guest houses, Bevan said.

Many local mid-range boat builders have been similarly hard hit by difficult market conditions, although some have adapted better than others. Two years ago, one Cape Town builder even landed a lucrative contract to build modular housing units for Antarctica to offset the absence of boat orders. Other builders have been less fortunate and have been forced to close shop.