Home' Afloat : AFLOAT April 2017 Contents Take monthly with water April 2017 47
ON THE WATER
with David Lockwood
You can contact the author at David.firstname.lastname@example.org and on
Twitter at @tidelines.
AGrow Boating Summit held in America last December
decided to continue with the US industry-supported
marketing campaign called Discover Boating. This portal
has done a great job of promoting the boating lifestyle, which is
pretty much the only area that supports the benefits of owning a
boat. Now Discover Boating is about to step things up by focussing
its pitch on the experiences that come with boating. I like this idea.
Buying a boat doesn’t make a lot of economic sense, but
neither does most discretionary luxury items, be it a wider screen
television with a Netflix subscription, a leather man bag to match
your ear piercing and hipster café beard, or body art.
What a boat does offer long term are lifestyle dividends by
way of experiences that have a lasting impact on your well-being
and tenure on this planet, where 71 per cent (and rising?) of the
surface is covered in water... not that stuff in your VR goggles.
As I type this after two weeks of Sydney deluge with more water
about than I care to remember, I can draw on a long list of boating
experiences to tide me through. I can also look forward to the
boating trip in the Northern Territory I’m likely to be undertaking
as you read this.
But as we tend to follow American trends, it’s worth looking
at a few salient points to emerge from their marine industry
meeting. The follow data lines were referenced in the two-day
Grow Boating Summit:
• Between 2005 and 2015, the US recreational boating industry
saw a net loss of more than 1 million boaters. Boaters are
leaving faster than the US industry can replace them. Unless
something changes, it’s projected that the number of boat
owning households will diminish dramatically by 2025.
• Fifty-four per cent of first-time boat buyers in 2005 are already
out of boating, with the number of first-time new boat buyers
dropping from 175,000 to 69,000 between 2000 and 2015. That’s
for the whole of the US!
The Summit made the point that tomorrow’s boaters will be
very different than they are today, with vastly different buying
behaviours, education, income, and interests. This, I believe, is
already happening with our boating industry – and many other
recreational industries – due to the technology shift.
Studies projecting growth and a lack of amenities in some places
are now outdated, while other areas of investment in infrastructure
are lagging behind. As we said at the outset, lifestyle is the key to
growing the industry and the Discover Boating portal has decided
to focus more on the experiences.
The members of Discover Boating will now evolve their
campaigns from promoting the lifestyle to promoting experiences
on the water. They also intend to conduct research to understand
what’s causing the attrition – why are first-time boat shoppers
dropping out of the buying process; and what is keeping lapsed
boat owners from getting back into boating?
The short answer is that our boats are getting bigger, more
costly, more time consuming, more complex, and more inaccessible.
At the same time, we have less time and money due to today’s
all-consuming communications. There is also flat wage growth
and rising costs of living and housing (rent for many). What is
left is beer money.
Indeed, we have less to spend in every which way these days.
Young families like mine are juggling a lot of balls. We’re supposed
to be empowered thanks to technology, where in fact it’s leaving
less time to switch off and do things like boating. You can easily
forget about the simple joys of being outdoors, afloat, free.
If Discover Boating had asked me, I ’d have said one thing: Uber.
While there would be much to thrash out, including not impacting
on survey vessels and Masters, consenting authorities like the
Australian Maritime Safety Authority are stuck in the dark ages.
What we need is some kind of affordable, dial-up boating solution.
The U-boats need to be a certain safe class, labelled as an
Uber, which in itself could be the basis for a new business of
creating hire ready craft (new or used). The boats would come with
a skipper/owner that knows what they’re doing, accepts liability,
but doesn’t need a ticket.
There might be restrictions on where you can go, at least
pursuant to the weather and boat class, and self-drive options,
too. Of course, you need to be able to book your Uber boat on
your smartphone using the app and to walk away at the end of the
day with a suntan and sand between your toes. An experience.
Given how many boats are out there NOT being used, I reckon
there’s great potential to grow boating. Uber has broken the long-
held local monopoly and model with taxis. There have been boat
trials in St Tropez user the stunning Wajer Yachts, in Turkey and
Sydney with water taxis. But an uber pleasure boat is what you
need to grow boating. Thoughts? h
BOATING WITH U-BOATS
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