Dutch extend ‘Grow Boating’ drive to 2025

AMSTERDAM _ Dutch companies active in boating and other outdoor recreation sectors have extended to 2025 their ‘Grow Boating’ campaign. Since its launch in 2015, that campaign has lured newcomers into water sports, but organizers say it needs more structure.

Curiously, the Dutch ‘Grow Boating’ campaign _ and similar undertakings across Europe and North America _ cap years of growth in which boat ownership declined due to a graying of boaters. One eye-opening statistic: 25 years ago, Americans in their 30s and 40s were twice as likely to own a boat than today. Today, boat owners over 70, outnumber those under 45. The picture is the same in Europe.

The HISWA Holland Marine trade lobby says more cross-sector collaboration is needed. Boat builders, charterers, marinas and other water sports enterprises are no longer rivals of one another, it says. They have become rivals of other leisure time activities.

Recently, HISWA Holland Marine and RECRON, the Dutch leisure industry trade group, agreed to merge forging a vacation sector lobby of almost 2,500 companies. The new alliance will represent a broad swath of sectors, from camping, touring and bungalow rentals to sailing schools and other watersports activities, marinas, boat building and chartering

HISWA Holland Marine ‘Grow Boating’ campaign leader Tessa den Hartog says to date, companies have been serious about getting new people onto Dutch waters, a ‘Grow Boating’ site has attracted tens of thousands of visitors and almost 500 events have been added to a national water sports agenda. HISWA Holland Marine has created a steering panel to give the campaign more structure.

Grow Boating drives everywhere identify growth opportunities, develop industry education and partnerships to target more consumers. In the US, Grow Boating Inc. and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas have expanded their education partnership begun in 2017.

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In Europe and North America, boat ownership is becoming less popular. “That’s tough to reverse. You cannot force people to buy a boat,” says Jack Ellis of Info-Link, a Miami-based research company. Addressing a US industry conference in October, he made these points that sound universally valid :

_ The US had 10 million boaters in 2000. By 2020, it will have 8.5 million. “The US loses 30,000 boaters annually, largely due to a generational shift.
_ Annually 140 million Americans go boating. “We don’t have to sell people on the joys of boating. “There are many boaters without a boat. That is a huge potential.”
_ “Young people embrace the sharing economy (but) seek the same experiences and social opportunities boating offers boaters today.”
_ “This younger generation wants to consume boating differently than today’s boat owners. Don’t try to sell them a boat! Be patient. Listen carefully. They will tell us what they want.”