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Recreational Boats - Trends and Numbers

   December 18, 2020

The recreational boats industry is characterized by several players, including boat & engine manufacturers, service providers, and dealers. The industry comprises players operating at global and local levels and adds up to market revenue for overall recreational boats. In recent years, the boating industry has been witnessing several regulations, standards, and laws imposed by the regional governments, boating associations, and marinas.

Recreational boats are outboard, inboard, and sailboats specifically used for recreational & leisure activities and non-commercial purposes by families, individuals, and groups. Recreational boating allows individuals to enjoy boating, fishing & watersports. A few major recreational boat applications include fishing, travel & tourism, transportation, and sports. These boats have robust demand across North America and Europe due to consumer lifestyle and spending capacity on leisure activities. Outboard boats are the most popular ones in these regions due to their low cost and high-power features.

Meticulous Research® estimates that the global market for recreational boats is expected to reach $54.9 billion by 2027. The growth of the market is attributed to the growing adoption of recreational boats with powerful engines for leisure activities and growing consumer preferences for electric boats. However, the significant initial investment is expected to hamper the market growth. The growing adoption of sensors and IoT-based technologies in luxury boats is expected to offer significant growth opportunities for players operating in this market. On the other hand, the lack of a skilled workforce and training is the major challenge faced by the market.

In the past few years, the boat construction industry has revolutionized the way people spend their vacations. The traditional view of boat building has become a passé with the introduction of new processes and technologies. The boat building industry has shifted from using wood as major raw material to novel materials, such as fiberglass. Fiberglass typically comprises 40% glass and 60% resin. The strength of fiberglass comes from the glass. Resin transfers the load between the fibers creating immense tensile strength. As a result, the higher strength to weight ratio of fiberglass makes it a very lightweight but strong material for boat building. Fiberglass has astonishing tensile strength and flexibility, along with outstanding durability, and is easy to repair. Moreover, it is customizable to any shape and color.

Technological Advancements

Advancement in technology is a key factor contributing to the growth of the recreational boats industry. The boating industry is changing rapidly due to highly advanced technologies that aim to solve issues, such as environmental pollution and rising fuel costs. High R&D investments and growth of the manufacturing companies have led to the adoption of revolutionary technologies, such as 3-D printing technology and robotics, to design innovative boats to cater to consumer demand. The 3D printing technology constructs real objects from virtual 3-D objects. In recreational boat manufacturing, a huge number of R&D activities are carried out by major companies for using 3-D printing technology to print replacement parts for maintenance and repair of boats.

In the coming years, electric outboard-powered boats are expected to gain robust demand due to the need for an environment-friendly and better alternative to fossil fuels. In electric outboards, companies are providing controllers, battery management, and electronic dash features. For instance, in March 2020, Evoy launched the most powerful electric outboard motor. The company also plans to launch two electric motors with 450 HP by 2023.


The growth of this market is mainly attributed to the booming tourism industry, growing economic development, growing participation in boating activities, innovation in boat engines, and increasing disposable income. Additionally, growing water sports activities and growing boat imports in developing nations, such as Thailand, provide significant growth opportunities for recreational boats in the coming years. However, cyber-attacks & the intangible threat to the cruise industry and high capital investment are expected to hinder the growth of this market to some extent. Further, environmental issues and the boating industry's workforce crisis are the key challenges of the recreational boats market.

Outdoor recreation activities are influenced by the present trends and changes in society. Influences can be of a social, economic, demographic, and technological nature. Certainly, key factors affecting outdoor recreation demand include employment, disposable income, leisure time, and emerging technologies that attract people to new outdoor activities. Some influences will attract people to recreational boating, and others detract or even displace current participants.

The major restraint is a high capital investment involved in the boating industry, including radio and radar equipment, design and manufacturing techniques, electronics, sensors, communication and control, data management, pump and pumping machinery, loading or unloading machinery, structure and materials, and research and development. Moreover, the capital costs to establish shipyards, and the retooling necessary to remain competitive as new classes of ships and innovative methods and material are introduced, makes it very difficult for new operators to enter this market.

Groupe Beneteau (France), Brunswick Corporation (U.S.), Marine Products Corporation (U.S.), Carnival Corporation & plc (U.S.), Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (U.S.), Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (U.S.), MCBC Holdings, Inc. (U.S.), Malibu Boats, Inc. (U.S.), Grand Banks Yachts Ltd. (Singapore), Porter, Inc. (U.S.), Grady-White Boats, Inc. (U.S.), Maverick Boat Group, Inc. (U.S.), Correct Craft (U.S.), Baja Marine (U.S.), Pacific Asian Enterprises (U.S.), Albemarle Boats (U.S.), Yamaha Motors Co. Ltd. (Japan), and Sunseeker International Limited (U.K.) are some of the key players operating in the recreational boats market.

Demand Analysis

The demand-side trends in the European outboard boat market include low-cost boats & engines, electric systems, and connectivity technologies. Consumers in European countries pose the need for electric outboard engines as they prefer low emission producing boats. The diesel and conventional engines have high initial & maintenance costs, which are comparatively low for electric engines. In the coming years, consumers are expected to focus on overall spending due to the ongoing pandemic situation and economic downturn across European countries. The industry will witness limited spending from major consumer segments, including tourism and sports, with the continuous increase of COVID-19 cases.

The recreational boat manufacturers are required to offer low cost and high-quality boats and engines to regain consumer confidence in boating & water sports activities. Broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi are gaining importance in the recreational boats sector due to changing consumer requirements. Moreover, the demand-side trends will transform the consumer demand for autonomous boats. With the rising trend of autonomous and connected technology in the automotive sector, the outboard boats industry is expected to have similar demand.

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