Influx of pandemic boaters strains marina space


Sales of new and used boats have reached recent highs. According to data from the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, 320,000 new boats were sold in 2020, a 13-year high and a 13% increase from 2019 – and 415,000 of more than 1.3 million new boats and used cars sold in 2020 were first-time buyers. In Michigan in 2021, there were $8.3 billion in sales of new boats, engines, trailers and accessories.

NMMA says there are more than 800,000 registered boats in Michigan, behind only Florida and Minnesota, and recreational boating has an economic impact of $7.8 billion on the state each year, which which makes it the third maritime market in the country behind Florida and Texas.

And even though COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are widely available for those who want them and much of daily life has resumed with few remaining restrictions on indoor activities, Nicki Polan, executive director of Michigan Boating Industries Association, based in Commerce Township, said it believes water activities that have grown in popularity in part because of these restrictions will continue to remain popular.

“Previously, our industry struggled to attract new people to boating,” she said. “The pandemic has brought thousands of new people to boating, and the industry believes that most will continue boating even with the lifting of restrictions on indoor recreation. Once you fully experience the benefits of the nautical lifestyle – quality time, face to face with family and friends, away from screens and the stresses of the world – it’s hard to give up.”

This reflects the demand for space for boats.

In addition, said Matt Putnam, managing director of the Leisure Properties Advisors division of Tampa, Fla.-based Colliers International Inc., interest rates have been low so borrowing has been inexpensive and low capitalization rates in other asset classes such as multi-family buildings. and industrials pushed investors to other sectors.

“You started to see people chasing after performance and looking for other ways to invest,” he said.

And while some industry consolidation began to occur in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the influx of new boaters has further increased interest in marina investment.

“Everyone pressed the panic button for two or three weeks there in mid-March 2020 and said, ‘Oh my God, the end of the world. What’s going to happen? ‘” Putnam said.

“All the things that you usually spend discretionary money on, people said, ‘Well, we can’t do any of that. What else can we do? And boating has really become an answer to that. And there was availability and supply and people started going, ‘Hey, let’s just take a boat.'”


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