All right so maybe it doesn't make fiscal sense to fly all the way to Australia to hear Thom Dammrich, President of the U.S. based National Marine Manufacturers Association present the state of the U.S. boating industry, but it was an added bonus of our tour of the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show.
After recovering from the 7 a.m. meeting time, which was really 5 p.m. the day before, I settled in, trusty reporter notebook placed beside the powder eggs notorious with hotel conference centers the world over. I was curious why everyone else received a big dose of bacon while my side dish was several stalks of soggy asparagus. I prepared for what I thought would be a repeat of previous speeches I've heard from associations. Instead as Dammrich reviewed a presentation he could obviously have given in his sleep, I heard doses of optimism, weaved in with a firm footing in reality. What are the highlights? Well, basically the number of boats sold is a third of what it was in 1965! Moreover, if you look at the number of units sold, the market basically fell off a cliff in 2004. However the rate of decline is slowing, and better yet, for the most part people are not getting out of boating. Based on NMMA research that polled folks who did leave, not one person answered that they left the sport because they didn't like it. It was due to other reasons, some customer service related, and expense played a roll as well.
What's the take away? Actions by the industry will keep you and me in the sport we love. Why is my slip at an all time high and I can't work on the boat myself in a marina to save a few bucks? How come it cost my friend $150.00 to jump from a fuel dock to a boat that was doing a touch and go to pick him up for a boat ride? Why does it often take weeks to schedule simple maintenance, and we have to endure no-shows, or inflated invoices with several round trip travel fees because the mechanic forgot his clip board? There are builders, marinas, and yards that go out of their way to improve customer service, yet the bad eggs seem to taint the industry for everyone. That's the message that must get across.
As Dammrich said, the two best days of a boater's life shouldn't be the day you bought, and the day you sold your boat, but any two days you're on the water. Happy cruising.