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The Crisis of the Marine Industry & Discover Boating

This Article, By Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dockage, April 2012

With the summer season fast approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the role marinas play in the overall marine industry, and how we can promote growth in boating to assure the future success of marinas.  The NMMA through their research has come up with some statistics about our industry that should have you concerned about the future of your marina.  Marinas are reactionary and must react to what boaters demand and boat manufactures produce.  If there is a diminishing supply of boats and boaters, it will have a negative impact on marinas.

The Situation

As identified by the NMMA’s analysis, we are fighting an uphill battle against an aging population, in both the age of boaters and the age of the boats.  The percentage of boaters over 50 years of age is increasing, while the percentage of boaters between 30 – 50 years of age is decreasing.  The average age of boats in 1997 was 16 years, whereas the current average age of boats is 21 years.  With an expected useful life of 25 years, the average age of boats is approaching the end of their useful life.  The concern is that if the industry doesn’t upgrade the boats, and attract a younger demographic to boating, there will be an alarming amount of boats and boaters leaving the boating lifestyle.

A Solution

In 2004, the recreational boating industry implemented the Grow Boating Initiative, ( and the Discover Boating Campaign ( to promote the boating lifestyle.  The Discover Boating campaign is an effort to attract new people to the boating lifestyle.  The campaign highlights the positive aspects of boating as a pastime, and provides educational tools to assist in selecting the right boat for the individual consumer.  The core foundation of the movement is that passion for the water is contagious and helping people identify with boating.  The current campaign, which has been evolving over the years, has taken a strong approach to leveraging existing boater’s experiences to attract new boaters.  The idea is to have existing boaters share their boating experiences with their family and friends, in person and on the web.  Creating awareness or providing an actual boating experience is the first step.  From their, the new potential boater move to desire, consideration, and eventually makes a purchase. 

The campaign has a strong web presence, through the website and the use of social media like Facebook (220k “Likes”) and Twitter.  Grow Boating  has recently updated its homepage, implemented new site navigation, redesigned boat selector tool, a new “Get Started” section, and Beginner’s Guides to Boating.  

By summer 2012, the Discover Boating Facebook page will help bring this concept into reality through the Video Creator template on the web.  This turnkey template allows boaters to upload photos and videos of their boating experiences (which may include your marina!) and the app will allow  personalized text, music, and render it into a personalized boating video.  The idea is to have them share this video with their friends and family.  Call it a bragging video, make up contests for best video, do anything that might entice them to participate.  There will also be a catalog of these videos for viewing through the web so that potential customers can view them, if they choose to share.  The use of the web and social media takes boating directly to the younger (not so younger) generations who are the future of our industry.

One of the most popular tools is the Spousal Conversion Kit, which focuses on letting “the water and wind, work its magic” on significant others.  The objective is to convince family members to invest their discretionary time, and money, on boating.

There is a cost comparison tool, which compares the cost of boating to other pastimes like RV-ing, Golfing, professional sporting events, and vacations.  This effort helps to challenge the notion that boating is too expensive. 

These tools help potential boaters learn about what courses they can take, information about boating basics like anchoring, finding boating destinations, and understanding the costs of boat ownership.

Grow Boating has created several short web based video advertisements for online sports and weather outlets; TV advertising is cost prohibitive.  In addition, Grow Boating has produced collateral material and tools to assist in promoting the message and campaign.

The existing boaters that become aware of the campaign are empowered to help promote boating to family and friends. 

These resources are available to marinas and boat dealers free of charge, but the industry needs your help in distributing the message.  On the Grow Boating Website, there are promotional tools that can be used by everyone.  There are online videos which can be imbedded into your website as well as bumper stickers and window decals and DVD’s for showroom displays.  It’s all there, you just need to visit the site and order your free materials for this season. 

We need to bridge the gap between the boat manufacturers, dealers & brokers, and the marina industry.  The objective is to unify the marine industry to create support, a common voice and promote cooperation between the various sectors.  The goal is increase boating as an activity, attract new people to the pastime, and ensure a strong industry for the future.  I strongly encourage everyone to participate in this campaign which is so critical for the future of every segment of the marine industry.

The Discover Boating Campaign “Welcome to the Water” when combined with the AMI’s National Marina Day (June 9th) create a strong message that will help educate boaters and non-boaters about marinas, the marine industry, and the boating lifestyle.

Be Part of the Movement!  The marine industry must work together to grow participation, focus on the customer, constantly offer innovative and superior experiences for our customers, and welcome more people to the boating lifestyle.  I would like to call to your attention an article written by Ron Stone back in March of 2000 and published in Marina Dockage where he said; “Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between marinas and the recreational marine manufacturing industry.  Each needs the other for growth and economic success.  It is essential that they work together.”  This was true then, as it is now.  I encourage individual marinas to join and work with Grow Boating to promote growth and actively market the boating lifestyle to the next generation of boaters.  Visit for more information.

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Reader Comments (1)

Good points about the changing demographics and lifestyle impediments to boating; but there are a lot more healthy 60 year olds around these days than there were 20 years ago. The Discover Boating and Grow Boating programs were great ideas; but I'd like to see more of an effort specifically targeted toward young people -- 12 and under. We need to catch 'em before they get so hooked on tv and video games they aren't interested in outside activity; and ideally this should be a program involving the whole family and/or neighbors.
October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis Boatslips

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