Leisure Boating Maintains Momentum Heading into 2023 as Individuals Proceed Prioritizing Outside Recreation in Document Numbers


WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The dawn of a new year brings the start of the boat show season for the $170 billion recreational boat industry and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which represents 85 percent of the nation’s recreational boat, marine engine and accessory manufacturers. The recreational boating industry is preparing to welcome an estimated two million Americans to dozens of boat shows between January and March to shop for the latest boats while continuing to prioritize outdoor recreation. Boat dealers and manufacturers have historically generated between 30 and 50 percent of their annual sales at boat shows.

A record year of exceptional demand in 2021 resulted in US$56.7 billion, the second-highest year for recreational boating spending in nearly two decades. Sales of new motorboat retail units normalized in 2022 with a decline of an estimated 15-18 percent to pre-pandemic growth years (2015-2019) with an estimated 250,000 new units sold, 25 percent above the previous average (2008-2014). Looking ahead to 2023, early signs point to continued healthy demand, with new retail unit sales expected to remain at 2022 levels.

This momentum comes as Americans demonstrate a continued prioritization of a life well-lived, spent enjoying outdoor experiences with family and friends, and shipbuilders continue to strategically manage their manufacturing and inventory pipelines after two years of supply chain bottlenecks . Segments driving growth in 2022 included entry-level boats such as personal watercraft, aluminum and fiberglass freshwater fishing boats, and pontoon boats under 26 feet in length.

“Last year was a healthy year for leisure boating, with record sales in 2021 due to continued demand and the fact that supply chain bottlenecks prevented our industry from over-producing as we have in others over the past two years sectors have experienced, gained momentum,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA President. “With boat shows making a full return after two years of limited events due to COVID, we have already seen encouraging sales reports in certain categories, coupled with consumers continuing to invest in the unique experiences that result from living on the water.”

New data from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), released in November, shows that the outdoor leisure economy has enjoyed record-breaking years, posting notable growth despite coping with a post-pandemic environment. In 2021, outdoor recreation generated $862 billion in economic output, equivalent to 1.9 percent of US GDP, a larger contributor than agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and mining. Outdoor recreation also supported 4.5 million American jobs. Additionally, recreational boating and fishing are the largest contributors to the nearly billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy, surpassing RV, hunting and other outdoor pursuits.

With dozens of boat shows taking place across the United States, including this winter’s 10 Discover Boating® shows, manufacturers and dealers will unveil the latest product innovations and technology, offer exclusive promotions and offer extensive boating activities to attract potential first-time visitors. Boat buyers, as well as millions of boaters, love to gather in the off-season.

“We have done extensive research to better understand the boaters of today and tomorrow, and local boat shows are a perennial favorite for the sense of community they create by giving boaters of all interests, access to all local dealers and new boat models in one place Bringing people together, the opportunity to board and buy boats, buy the latest gear, and immerse themselves in education and experiences—they take pop-up retail and social gatherings to the next level,” said Ellen Bradley, senior vice president of Marketing and Communications for NMMA.

US Recreational Boating in Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, the following additional data is from the NMMA’s 2021 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract.

  • Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services totaled $56.7 billion in 2021, an increase of 12.7 percent from 2020.

  • It’s not just new boats that are seeing strong sales; An estimated 1.15 million used boats were sold in 2021, an increase of 9.2 percent over 2020.

  • The recreational boating industry is an economic engine that supports more than 690,000 American jobs and 35,000 American businesses.

  • Outdoor recreation accounts for 1.9 percent of US GDP and generates gross economic output of $862 billion, of which recreational boating and fisheries is the largest single segment at $50.4 billion and supports 4.5 million American jobs . (Source: US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis)

  • Recreational boating is a unique “Made in America” ​​industry: 95 percent of the boats sold in the United States are made in America.

  • An estimated 100 million Americans boat each year.

  • Recreational boating isn’t just for the 1 percent. Sixty-one percent of boat owners have annual household incomes of $100,000 or less.

  • 95 percent of the boats on the water in the US are shorter than 26 feet — boats that can be towed by a vehicle to local waterways.

  • The following states led the nation in sales of new motor boats, engines, trailers and accessories in 2021:

  1. Florida: $5.4 billion, up 3.7 percent from 2020

  2. Texas: $2.4 billion, up 2.6 percent from 2020

  3. Michigan: $1.5 billion, up 16.3 percent from 2020

  4. North Carolina: $1.24 billion, up 2.8 percent from 2020

  5. Minnesota: $1.2 billion, up 13.8 percent from 2020

  6. New York: $1.16 billion, up 10.5 percent from 2020

  7. California: $1.1 billion, up 17 percent from 2020

  8. Wisconsin: $1 billion, up 17 percent from 2020

  9. Georgia: $924 million, up 1.9 percent from 2020

  10. Alabama: $898 million, up 7.4 percent from 2020

About NMMA: The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the premier trade organization for the North American recreational boating industry. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, marine supplies and equipment used by millions of boaters in North America. The association serves its members and their sales and service networks by improving the business environment for recreational boating, including providing domestic and international sales and marketing opportunities, reducing unnecessary government regulation, lowering the cost of doing business and encouraging participation in boating. As the largest producer of boat and sports shows in the United States, NMMA connects the recreational boating industry with the boating consumer year-round. Learn more at www.nmma.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.