Big news for the peer-to-peer boat rental market coming out of IBEX this week, with two major partnerships announced on Tuesday's opening day.
First, we've got Boatsetter and Cruzin announcing a merger that will operate under the Boatsetter name. The other announcement was a partnership between boat club SailTime and with peer-to-peer company Boatbound. While not a merger, the companies will be working together on a number of initiatives.
(Need more background on the peer-to-peer market? Check out the article I wrote for our April issue. Short version: think Airbnb for boats.)
The peer-to-peer market has been met by indifference, suspicion or outright hostility by many in the industry. So I suppose it should be no surprise that many I talked to yesterday viewed these announcements as a sign of the segment failing. Certainly it wasn't true of everyone, but those most common response I heard was along the lines of "I knew it would never work."
I've got a different take on it -- I see it as a positive sign for the industry, in that as the segment matures, it is consolidating. It was never realistic to expect more than half a dozen companies to make a go of it in this segment. In reality, they are all competing to become our Airbnb, our Uber, one of those one or two companies that can own a segment.
I understand the doubts. I've been quite up front in my previous writing on the subject as well as when I talk to people about this: No, I would never put my boat into a service like this, but I also would never rent my house out on Airbnb, either. I also realize that plenty of people do that every day.
As Grow Boating president Carl Blackwell said at an IBEX panel discussion on the topic Tuesday, "There are a lot of models we can try. Consumers will be the final judge."
It's about affordability, it's about access to the water. Anything that can get more people to enjoy the sport is a good thing.