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Are you ready for what comes next?

By By Jonathan Sweet

The industry is spending a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to grow the boating audience and rightfully so. We all know the demographic changes that are impacting us and what’s coming down the pike.

Senior editor Tom Kaiser wrote about the millennials earlier this week.

Another big challenge is drawing a more ethnically diverse audience. I talked to Frank Peterson, president of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, about that group’s efforts to draw more Hispanics into fishing and boating.  (We’ll have more coverage of that effort in our June issue as well.)

While much of the effort has been focused on attracting that audience to the industry, Frank pointed out something else that is just as important: we need to educate the industry.

In other words, boat dealers need to be aware of the cultural differences and nuances of these buyers. The worst thing that could happen is that we successfully manage to draw more Hispanic buyers to boat shows and dealerships and they aren’t made to feel welcome.

At the Houston boat show earlier this year, RBFF and its marketing agency Lopez Negrete found some unsettling results. Hispanic members of the Lopez Negrete team walked the show and found they were treated differently by dealers than non-Hispanic customers.

“At the whole boat show, in one of the highest demographic market areas for Hispanics, they couldn’t find anybody who spoke Spanish on the floor,” Peterson said. “You would think if you were marketing in that area you’d have at least one person who spoke Spanish.”

It’s an admittedly small sample, but later this year RBFF will be conducting more than 350 test shops of retailers large and small in Texas and Florida to see how those retailers interact with Hispanic customers versus non-Hispanics.

The point of this is not to create a “gotcha moment,” as some might fear. This isn’t about attacking the industry. This is about educating the industry. By identifying problem areas, it will help RBFF and its partners develop tools to retailers.

They are already developing a Hispanic readiness checklist to help you know what you need to do to invite these folks into your business. And there are plenty of other resources available at http://takemefishing.org/general/about-rbff/programs-and-materials/.

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