June | July 2021

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Editor’s Comment

>> Golden opportunities

The success of the Palma and Venice boat shows in June, despite Covid protocols and the curbs on international travel, are a positive omen that, as vaccine rollouts restore confidence, we’re in for a bumper autumn and winter show season, making for fertile ground that should provide richer pickings still, in 2022. To gauge the current mood, read our US report in this issue (p24).

Record sales, record profits, record order books, and perhaps most encouragingly, a new influx of eager buyers – 100,000 new first-time boaters, according to NMMA stats – all of which has the industry smiling. As always, however, the devil is in the detail.

Those NMMA stats also reveal that there are some 11,200 marinas and 15,000 dealers in the US alone, driving home the fact that our industry remains one defined by a limited number of national and international players, with a vast number of ‘mom and pop’ small enterprises that will have key customer-facing roles to play.

It bodes the question, how prepared is our industry, not just in the US but globally, to play the positive hand it has been dealt by the pandemic?  Good customer experience is vital to ensuring those new boaters, their showroom expectations honed over the years by auto dealer service, find the ‘boating experience’ as rewarding off the water as it is on, and that the boating boom doesn’t end in a whimper.

“But how prepared is our industry, not just the US but globally, to play the positive hand it has been dealt by the pandemic?

Could Covid also be the adrenaline shot mainland China’s slumbering marine industry needs to realise its potential? It’s a question we ask in our full report on China on p52. Early indications suggest the pandemic and resulting need for social distancing is helping pivot the market away from boats being bought as business assets, to individual consumers realising the benefits of spending their ‘staycation’ time onboard.

The potential boating customer in China has remained something of a riddle to the West – the nation itself is still grappling with the whole concept of being out on the water for leisure. As in the West, however, the pandemic appears to be having a galvanising impact on attitudes to boating. The Chinese government looks to be getting onboard too– see our report on the Hainan Free Trade Zone policy (p53) – suggesting the stars could finally be aligning.

If so, then Covid-19 could have gifted our industry another golden opportunity not to be squandered.

Ed Slack | IBI Editor

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