2006 boater participation, boat sales up

CHICAGO – The National Marine Manufacturers Association’s (NMMA) 2006 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, released today by the association, shows one-third of U.S. adults went boating in 2006, an increase of 1.3 million Americans to more than 73 million.

Those boaters spent approximately $16 billion on food, drinks, groceries, restaurants and fuel associated with their boating excursions, according to the association.

The number of boats in use also increased to nearly 18 million and boat registrations surpassed 13 million for the first time since 2001. In addition, the industry grew to an all-time high of $39.5 billion in U.S. sales and services in 2006, a six percent increase from the previous year.

“We were excited to see boater participation increase to 73 million last year because it reinforces our belief that more and more people are finding out that getting out on the water is one of the best ways to relax, have fun and enjoy time with friends and family,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president.

While total boat unit and dollar sales were up more than five percent – buoyed by growth in ski/wakeboard boats, personal watercraft, canoes and kayaks – the traditional powerboat segment saw a decrease in unit sales of nearly five percent to 291,900 total units in 2006, according to NMMA.

“Though new powerboat sales were down slightly, the increase in boating participation bodes well for better sales in the years ahead,” noted Dammrich. “We anticipated flat to slightly down powerboat sales as higher interest rates and the malaise in the housing market impacted consumer confidence throughout the year.”

Total new boat dollar sales edged upward two percent to $11.5 billion, reflective of an overall increase in the price of traditional powerboats, which also increased 2 percent to $9.6 billion. The NMMA attributed these increases to the rise in production costs to manufacturers, such as the rising price of petroleum-based inputs and efforts to develop cleaner, more fuel-efficient engine technology. In addition, new boaters are also demanding more comforts of home aboard their boats and, as a result, manufacturers are installing additional features and amenities, NMMA explained.

“These numbers clearly show boating is well within the reach of average Americans, allowing them an opportunity to make life long memories with their families aboard a boat,” said Dammrich. “The Discover Boating campaign, an integrated marketing campaign funded by the recreational boating industry, is in its second year and we believe it will further increase sales in 2008, 2009 and beyond by demonstrating to would-be boaters the many lifestyle benefits of spending time on the water.”

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