HISWA-in-Water 2019

BRUSSELS – A day after the European Commission proposed €750 billion in COVID-19 recovery funding, Europe’s boating lobby urged it to provide significant financial aid for boat builders and related sectors.

Philip Easthill

European Boating Industry Secretary General Philip Easthill raised the strategic importance of Europe’s boating sector in a meeting with EU Industry Commissioner  Thierry Breton, attended also by other maritime sector actors. Europe’s boating industry consists of 32,000 companies that employ 280,000 people.

The Dutch sector has been hit particularly hard. It estimates damage to date at €1.1 billion. Recently, a 2nd boat show – the Sept. 2-6 HISWA-in-Water in September – was canceled as Dutch boating companies reported turnover losses of as high as 75%.

In 2019, the in-water event attracted 30,000 visitors. Its cancellation in 2020 has tanked plans to bring in more foreign visitors. As a result, there will likely be no uptick in fall buyers, complicating a 2021 recovery, say Dutch boating officials.

Easthill told Breton COVID-19 weighs heavily “on our industry. It’s crucial this is taken into account for the recovery plans of the EU and its member states.”

He spoke with Breton on May 28, one day after the EU head office proposed an unprecedented €750 billion recovery fund. Most will be grants and EU governments get a say in how the money is to be spent.

In the Netherlands, the disbursement of assistance to the boating sector has been something of an uphill slog.

Geert Dijks

To date, some 75% of Dutch sector companies have received money from various government compensation schemes. Of the charter fleet and sailing schools, 100% did. But only 65% of marinas and 35% of boat builders and their suppliers.

Aid absorption rates have been mixed as emergency funding is short-term aid. “Yacht builders and their supply chain will only feel the pain of the corona virus in the medium term,” says Geert Dijks, head of the Netherlands’ HISWA-RECRON boating and recreational trade group.