HISWA-RECRON goes to bat for idled Dutch boat sector;  Sees bumpy road ahead

By Robert Wielaard

LEUSDEN – The Dutch boating and leisure sector lobby has secured some aid for its 2,500 members but says more is needed. Ominously, it cautions the post-coronavirus road will be tough. It sees real estate vultures circling, ready to buy up stricken operators.

HISWA-RECRON Director Geert Dijks says vulnerable sectors – among these, group accommodations, sailboat rentals and sailing schools – “really need to think about new business models” after the coronavirus crisis has done its damage.

Geert Dijks

“Times will be tough for them after May,” he says. “The speed with which we can reopen (for business) to a certain extent determines the turnover of companies. Much depends on what’s allowed and can be done in the 1.5m (social distancing) economy. Is the loss of turnover 20%? 50%? That makes quite a difference.”

Dijks has lobbied the government hard to help the Dutch boating and vacation sectors for which a year lasts only 8, maybe 9 months. He recently took government types on a damage assessment tour of a very large, very empty complex for surfers, sailors, anglers and campers.

Later, he told the Dutch NRIT tourism sector platform that in post-coronavirus days, boating and leisure sector companies will still “need access to cheap, long-term loans and credit guarantees. And, perhaps, state aid.”

A future housing project?

Dijks cautioned that venture capitalists are targeting leisure sector companies looking to buy cheap property for housing projects.

The government has approved tens of billions in credit and loan guarantees for the all Dutch companies. HISWA-RECRON wants a sector-specific emergency fund, “to stabilize the market and prevent bankruptcies,” says Dijks. It also wants the government to force banks to be generous in extending credit.

So whither boating and fun in the Netherlands?

Breda University lecturer Goof Lukken says in the short term boaters, surfers, sailors, campers etc. will depend on the state of the Dutch hospitality industry and any lingering movement restrictions. “Hospitality industry companies now have an (inter)national strategy. That’s not feasible in the short term.” Alternatively, says Lukken, “we end up in a crisis. Consumers hold off on spending (and) many companies in tourism and recreation disappear.”