In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, all industry performance indicators are green around the world, especially in the United States.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the leading trade association for boat manufacturers in the United States, recently reported that new boat sales have reached record levels since 2007.
“With the social distancing guidelines, it is clear that a new reality applies to the way we spend our holidays and relax,” says NMMA President Frank Hugelmeyer. It appears that in 2020, “more and more people are returning to a long-standing American hobby: boating”.
Indeed, NMMA data shows that total new boat sales increased by 59% in May compared to April, and by 19% compared to May 2019. Yacht sales – which the NMMA defines as boats over 33 feet – increased by 51% in May compared to April, according to the latest available figures.
“The new NMMA data reinforces what we’ve heard from dealers and manufacturers across the country: record interest and robust sales this summer across all boat segments as Americans invest in new ways to escape and vacation in the age of social distancing,” Hugelmeyer said.
Many dealers also report that many buyers are newcomers to the boating world.
“Customers are ready to buy any model, any color, even a used product,” says Bryan Seti, General Manager at Yamaha WaterCraft Group. “We have worked with our dealer network to help them achieve contactless transactions, and even though our plants were closed for a while, we were up and running quickly. Our inventory was gobbled up.”
The Yamaha WaterCraft Group conducted an internal study and found that about one-third of new boat buyers said their purchase was influenced by the Covid-19. Indeed, boating activities offer yachtsmen the opportunity to spend time with their close circles (friends/family) while respecting the basic rules of social distancing from the general public.
And while boat sales are booming, yacht charters have also gained popularity, says Mr. Canfield, president of South Coast Yachts in California. All the brokers in the area say “they are extremely busy and all their boats are booked well in advance.”
The same applies to the superyacht segment.
Business leaders in the superyacht segment also reported similar observations related to the pandemic.
“In July, our sales more than doubled compared to the same month last year, and our indicators indicate continued interest and activity in the months ahead,” said Daniel Ziriakus, President and Chief Operating Officer of Northrop & Johnson.
“On the charter side, we have seen a significant increase in enquiries from new entrants since the beginning of the pandemic, with an overall increase of 113% over the same period last year,” said Ziriakus.
“With many travel restrictions still in place, at least for this summer, we are seeing customers booking charters closer to home, with Europeans booking mainly in the Mediterranean and Americans in New England, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
With more than 170 employees in 18 offices, Fraser, the world’s largest luxury yacht service provider, gave an overview of the impact of the pandemic on its global operations.
“Those who have hesitated to buy a yacht in recent years are now deciding to take action. They want to have control over the quality of their time off and how they can enjoy it safely and enjoyably,” said Mark Duncan, Fraser’s director of marketing and business development.
At Marinescence, the indicators are different, but the reality is the same: requests for seagoing personnel have been pouring in since the beginning of June, often from new clients, and the morphology of cruises is changing: only Europeans are currently sailing in the Mediterranean, while Americans are enjoying the Caribbean.
“Many crews also report that spending on board is different from previous years. Spontaneity in the act of buying is being felt. People, including the wealthiest, have been confined for two months, the future is uncertain. They want to enjoy life, spend their money, afford the material goods on which they have sometimes hesitated,” says Pierre Souriau, Director of Operations at Marinescence Media.