The maritime industry in Germany is continuing to grow. The international market remains stable too, although no significant positive signals are coming from it. There is a very definite trend towards motor boats and motor yachts, sales of which have increased both nationally and internationally. Sales in the sailing yacht segment are declining slightly, on the other hand.
According to a business survey carried out by the Association of the German Water Sports Industry at the end of the year, 83.1% (previous year: 83.5%) of the companies said that their business situation in Germany was as good as or better than in the previous year. The market is growing moderately but steadily – this is how the current situation can be summarised. All in all, the industry is anticipating total sales of maritime goods and services (excluding the megayacht segment) of about EUR 2 billion in 2016.
The companies estimate that the positive market trend will continue: a good 90% of the companies are expecting business to be the same or better in the coming year.
New boat market
The picture is not consistent, however. In the sailing boat sector, demand for large sailing yachts and catamarans is still growing, whereas the market environment remains difficult in the medium-sized and small boat segment. The situation is different in the motor boat sector. Although large & expensive boats are en vogue here too, demand for small motor boats up to 30 feet long is also strong – in contrast to the sailing boat segment.
There is a definite trend in this segment towards boats with outboard motors. Lower fuel consumption and maintenance costs as well as more space on board are the crucial arguments for many customers here. This is confirmed by the sales figures for outboard motors too. In the first 10 months of 2016, sales of outboard motors with outputs of more than 60 horsepower were 13% higher than in the same period the previous year.
The companies’ assessments of developments in the sailing and motor boat sectors reflect these differences. 93% of motor boat distributors report that business has been as good as or better than in the previous year. The figure in the sailing boat sector is only 80%. All in all, the industry is expecting sales of new boats to amount to about EUR 192 million.
Newcomers are stimulating the market
A recent national study* of the boat market by the German association shows that more newcomers have been showing interest in recreational boating again in the last few years. At the present time, the industry is adding some 7,000 – 7,500 boat owners every year. The number of those who are focussing on the charter market either temporarily or permanently is likely to be far higher. An indicator of this is the number of official recreational boating licences for inland waterways and the open sea that have been obtained. Between 2006 and 2015, the number of licences obtained increased from 63,529 to 81,049 (+ 27.6%). So there continues to be a trend towards recreational boating.
This is an encouraging development, which continues to be promoted by the national German recreational boating campaign START BOATING. In 2016, about 2,600 people have had an opportunity to try out boating free of charge at one of the 7 boat events – and have responded enthusiastically!
The motor boat segment is benefitting from the large number of newcomers to a larger extent than the sailing boat segment. 62% of the roughly 74,000 newcomers in the last 10 years have opted for a motor boat. It is very evidently a fact that the barriers to entry (training/licence/experience) are considered to be less high in the motor boat segment.
Although there is no doubt that most of the positive signals are coming from the domestic German market, export business remains vital to German boat manufacturers. After all, more than 80% of boat production is sold abroad. Thanks to high-quality, innovative products that represent good value for money, the German manufacturers have succeeded in performing very impressively on foreign markets. A total of 1,884 motor and sailing yachts worth EUR 135.1 million were exported from Germany in the first half of 2016. This corresponds to growth of 27.6% by number and 3.2% by value.
The increasing importance of the motor boat segment is reflected in export business too. Exports of motor boats grew 22% over the same half of the previous year by value, with the figure for small motor boats up to 7.5 m long being as high as 52%. Exports of sailing yachts decreased 8.3% by value in the same period.
Pre-owned boat market
80% of motor boat distributors report that the current business situation is as good as or better than in the previous year. They are much less positive about the sailing boat segment (62.5%). There is in the meantime a shortage of good and relatively young pre-owned boats, so that new owners can be found quickly. Boats that are decades old and lag far behind modern boats in their design, equipment and comfort are proving more and more often to be difficult or impossible to sell, on the other hand.
The pre-owned boat market remains an important area of the companies’ operations, even though not all boats have been sold via professional distributors for a long time now. About 21,000 boats and yachts (excluding inflatable and small boats) are available for sale every year and generate revenues of about EUR 423 million.
The equipment, accessories and boat service / maintenance market sectors are major sources of sales in the maritime industry. In 2016, boat owners have invested some EUR 680 million in their boats and yachts, which is the same as in the previous year – in spite of the erratic weather conditions in the past year.
Industry insiders know that the weather conditions have a considerable impact on economic developments in the maritime field. This has been confirmed once again this year. The fact that Easter was early combined at the same time with cold and very inconsistent weather that lasted into early summer led to sales shortfalls into May, which it has, however, been possible to compensate for by the acceptable summer and the surprisingly good autumn.
Service and maintenance firms can therefore expect excellent capacity utilisation in future as well. 92.5% of the companies report that business has been as good as or better than in the previous year. The figure in the equipment and accessories field is about 84%.
The charter market has not been impacted by the current weather conditions. Booking patterns here are influenced by the conditions in the previous year. And they were good overall. So the companies are reporting growth rates in both domestic and foreign business. This does not apply to Turkey, however, which is being avoided by charter customers because of the escalating political situation.
It is becoming increasingly popular to spend one’s holidays in Germany. Not only the Germans themselves are enjoying the most pleasant weeks of their year more and more frequently in their home country; guests from abroad, for example from Switzerland, are very evidently finding it more attractive to go on holiday in Germany now too. Both coastal and inland charter companies are benefitting from this trend.
The licensing conditions, which are now competitive by international standards as well, are also having an impact on the motor boat and houseboat chartering sector. A license is not generally required for boats with motors up to 15 horsepower on federal German waterways (with the exception of the River Rhine). In addition to some 700 km of German waterways in areas that are particularly appealing to tourists in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt and Saarland, where boats up to 15 m long can be driven without a licence in the context of official chartering rules.
Renters of canoes and kayaks are satisfied with the 2016 business year too. 82.6% of the companies report that business has been as good as or better than in the previous year.
For 13 years, starting in 1969, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” series attracted an enthusiastic audience of millions on German television for every episode. It not only made the author and marine researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau world-famous; it also led to a tremendous boom in recreational diving. According to a study* commissioned by the Association of the German Recreational Diving Industry, the German diving community consists in the meantime of 406,000 recreational divers (177,000 regular divers who have equipment of their own and 229,000 occasional divers, who borrow equipment to enjoy their hobby).
Recreational diving has not been a niche market for a long time now at the economic level either. Recreational divers spend about EUR 120 million per year on their equipment, EUR 67 million on diving courses and training as well as about EUR 590 million on diving tours. The industry contributes about 380 exhibitors to and fills 20,000 m² of exhibition space at Europe’s largest recreational diving trade fair (boot Düsseldorf).
The companies continue to be optimistic about the future. More than 90% of them are expecting business to be as good as or better than before in the forthcoming water sports season. Only 9% are anticipating a minor economic decline.
This assessment is confirmed by the general economic conditions in Germany, which remain positive. The unemployment rate is at the lowest level for 25 years at 5.9%. Economic growth of 1.5% as well as the forecast that available income will be increasing by 2.9% in 2017 will make sure that consumers continue to be willing to spend.
There are risks, however. At international level, they include ongoing increases in national debt in the countries bordering the Mediterranean and thus the stability of the euro. At national level, future developments will depend to a very large extent on what general conditions the German government creates for the future development of water tourism in Germany.
The maritime industry is very worried about the development that is becoming apparent. On the one hand, the federal government would like to withdraw at least to some extent from funding the roughly 2,800 km of federal waterways that have been downgraded to minor waterways – including 120 weirs and 140 locks – and to dispose of them by termination of federal commitments if at all possible, while flowing waters and floodplains – particularly in the context of minor waterways – are, on the other hand, supposed to be restored as part of the “Blaues Band Deutschland” federal programme.
Continuation of the positive development of water tourism in Germany – particularly in rural and economically underdeveloped areas – could be jeopardised seriously by these plans.
The central associations representing the water sports, water sports industry and tourism communities are therefore pressing for the maintenance and long-term protection of the network function and universal navigability of the federal waterways and are campaigning for the concept of the balanced combination of both economic viability and environmental protection.
The Association of the German Water Sports Industry (BVWW) is the official mouthpiece for the water sports industry in Germany and has been representing the interests of the industry at national and international level for more than 50 years now. Its members include companies and associations that operate commercially in the water sports industry. The association is one of the organisations backing boot Düsseldorf – the biggest water sports leisure trade fair in the world – and liaises with the trade fair to promote major initiatives in the water sports industry.