NMMA president Thom Dammrich presented an optimistic view of the marine industry going forward this morning at the annual state-of-the-industry breakfast at IBEX. Dammrich first cited a 2016 recreational boating participation study that showed 142 million Americans went boating last year. The study said that about a third were new boaters, and about half were under the age of 18.

“In 2016, recreational boating had revenues of US$36bn,” said Dammrich. “That is the highest number ever.” Dammrich said that US$11.7m was spent on new boats, US$8.7bn on pre-owned boats and US$6.4m on accessories.

“We know that this is a cyclical industry and these cycles tend to run in five-year spurts,” said Dammrich. “We’re now in the sixth year of recovery and I’m not worried that the run will end anytime soon.”

Dammrich said that last year 1.2 million boats were sold, including 245,000 new boats and 928,000 pre-owned vessels. There are 15.8 million boats in use in the US. That number is down by 1 million compared to 10 years ago. “That gives us opportunities to sell more new boats,” said Dammrich. “We’re projecting a 6% increase in unit sales for the year.” Dammrich said that wholesale production and retail sales are closely co-related, with manufacturers producing to dealer.

Only the pontoon segment has returned to 100% of its pre-recession unit sales, but a number of boat categories like pontoons, towboats, and personal watercraft are to their pre-recession dollar revenues.

“Consumer confidence is the highest level it has been since 2000, and real GDP grew at 3%,” said Dammrich. “When that combines, it means that we are on fire as an industry.”

Dammrich said that if tax reform passes the US Congress, he expects to see growth through the end of 2019. “We might see a slight slowing down in 2019, but there will be a resumption of growth in 2020,” he says. “If we get tax reform in the next 12 months, we will see growth for our industry for another two or three years.”