As many boat dealers have noticed, the number of first-time boat buyers has been increasing steadily over the past few years, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. Boating is undeniably a fun and exciting leisure activity, of course, which partly explains the increase in new devotees. But many other factors are attributable to the upswing in boat sales and new boat owners.

Why is boating becoming more popular?

One of the most common reasons to get into boating is the sheer love of nature. Few activities provide the opportunity to enjoy the heady blend of sunshine, fresh air, and sea spray all at once. It’s an exhilarating experience, to be sure, and most people who try it once become hooked to it for the rest of their lives.

Boating also allows people to enjoy being out in the ocean in whatever way suits them best. For some, nothing compares to the thrill of racing with the wind and covering a vast distance within minutes. For others, boating is more a leisurely pursuit in which lazily drifting on the waves provides all the satisfaction and enjoyment they need.

Then there is fishing. Whether it is deep-sea fishing or merely casting a line just beyond the breakwater, many people find the lure of the ocean impossible to resist. For the most avid devotees, fishing isn’t as much about bringing in a catch as it is spending a day out in the great wide open without a care in the world.

The pandemic also undoubtedly plays a role in boosting the number of first-time boat owners. Given the travel restrictions still in place in many parts of the world, having a self-owned boat seems to be a safe and logical option.

Predictions for the future of boat ownership

Marina owners eager to tap into this new market typically ask the question: “Is the trend in new boar ownership going to last?”

By most indications, it would seem so. Since 2014, the number of new boat owners has been higher than it has ever been. The website reported a 56% increase in boat ownership over the past year. The site’s popularity has also increased by 90% among 18 to 24-year-olds. This could indicate long-term prosperity for the industry.

Another reason to be optimistic is the realization that boat buyers are getting younger and younger. As Millennials get older and Gen Z’s enter the workforce, the boating industry is beginning to see an influx of younger buyers. With their increased buying power, these younger buyers are taking up an increasingly larger market share.

Ways to keep first-time boat buyers interested

Marina owners have their work cut out for them in terms of keeping this new crop of boat owners engaged. Many will likely stick with it for a few years, and some may even continue ownership as a lifelong pursuit.

But what of those for whom boating is merely a passing interest? How does a marina owner ensure that these new owners go on to become long-term customers?

As in any industry, the key lies in providing value. Boaters need access to a wide range of products and services throughout the ownership period, so marina owners have to step up and fill the need. From boating and fishing supplies to accessories, equipment, and more, marina business owners need to make them readily accessible to those who need them.

Active engagement is also crucial. Customers need to feel valued and derive more from the business relationship than just a “money-for-service” transaction. The most successful marinas treat every customer as if they were VIPs, with a consistently high level of care and service.

Beyond that, marina owners need to engage and connect with customers on a more personal level. Social media is an effective platform for customer engagement, providing a means by which business owners and their audience can interact freely.

Among some of the most effective ways to use social media are:

  • posting relevant and interesting content
  • answering questions
  • leaving comments
  • generally maintaining an active social media presence

By following these steps, marina owners have a much better chance of retaining new boat owners as customers. Furthermore, they are much more likely to stick with the marina for the long term.

Ultimately, retaining customers is about providing something that no one else does. Marina owners should be prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that a) their customers’ needs are met and b) that they provide more value to the customer in terms of products, services, and overall satisfaction.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.