At the Helm: Taking action to grow boating
Jonathan Sweet, Editor in Chief
May 1, 2014
Filed under Columns
For years, the boating industry has been talking about the need to reach new audiences beyond the core customers of white male baby boomers.
The good news is that now there is finally some action to go beyond the talk. Some recent moves that caught my eye illustrate that trend.
A new task force focused on improving diversity is taking its first steps toward actually addressing this issue. With some of our industry’s most vocal advocates leading the way in Wanda Kenton Smith and Lou Sandoval, I’ve got no doubt they’re going to make real progress on diversity. You can read more about their efforts by clicking here.
Lack of ethnic diversity is only part of the problem, though. As we’ve covered frequently in these pages, the age of the average boater is increasing at an alarming rate. For myriad reasons, younger folks are not buying into the boating lifestyle, but one of the biggest problems is affordability. We can argue about whether that’s perception or reality, but in the end all that matters is people think they can’t afford to boat.
The biggest player in the marine market is attacking that problem head on. Brunswick Corp., owner of some of the top brands in the industry, recently announced a partnership with Boatbound, a peer-to-peer rental service. (We’ll have more on this in the June issue and at BoatingIndustry.com.)
The idea behind Boatbound is simple: Most boats sit unused most of the year, so why not rent them out to other users? The Boatbound service allows both dealers and boat owners to list their boats for rent. Renters are pre-screened and qualified by Boatbound. Boatbound provides insurance, towing protection and other protections as part of the package.
Brunswick CEO Dusty McCoy said that the deal will not only attract more people to boating, it will help make it more affordable for those who already own boats by creating a new source of income.
“The long-term health of our industry requires us to make boating even more accessible and affordable, especially among younger, aspiring boaters,” he said in announcing the partnership.
I’ll be the first to admit I see some potential problems with peer-to-peer rental services like Boatbound, and I’m not sure I’d want to make my boat available as part of the service. That said, to see one of the biggest names in our industry embrace creative ways to get more people on the water is a great sign.
Will it work? Who knows, but what we do know is that refusing to change isn’t going to get us anywhere.