Florida’s recreational boating industry poised to make big comeback

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After years of lackluster sales, boating is bouncing back.

From Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is ready for its best year since the Great Recession took the wind out of boating’s sails.

“We’re very excited with the prospects,” Show Management senior vice president Andrew Doole tells the Miami Herald.

Show Management coordinates the annual event for the show’s owner—Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

Robust boat sales through the summer offer encouragement, Doole says.

“The American buyer is back,” he adds.

Featured in the show are everything from pleasure vessels and paddleboats to 250-foot luxury yachts. On display will be more than 1,000 vessels, both in the water and on land.

Trade group National Marine Manufacturers Association predicts, “Continued steady growth” for the next 12 months, bolstered by a 5 percent to 7 percent increase in retail sales of powerboats since 2013. In the first six months of 2014, powerboat registrations increased 7 percent from the year before, NMMA reports.

After peaking at $9.8 billion in 2006, NMMA says sales in the recreational marine industry plummeted 49 percent to only $5 billion in 2010. The association tracks small boats and yachts under about 80 feet. In recent years, boat purchases have crept up, with $6.5 billion in sales for 2013.

High-end boating is also recovering.

“Overall, it’s not back to pre-recession levels,” says U.S. Superyacht Association President Kitty McGowan, “but it’s significantly better than it had been.”

As No.1 in sales of new powerboats, as well as engines, trailers and accessories, Florida sales totaled $1.9 billion in 2013, a 16 percent jump from 2012, according to NMMA.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.