Boating boom set to continue in summer 2021
AUSTIN, Texas – Boat sales are booming in the COVID-19 era, and the boating industry is struggling to meet demand.
The Freedom Boat Club has seen the impact of those interested in going out on the water. The International Yacht Club allows people to get out of a selection of boats for hours.
Interest in becoming a member in places across the country began to intensify when the pandemic forced closures last March. Austin’s Freedom Boat Club experienced record growth in 2020 and is already surpassing member sales in 2021 as the local community prepares to take advantage of peak boating season.
“Currently, we only let people in when people are leaving, but fewer and fewer people want to leave,” said Bill Marquardt, co-owner of the Austin-area yacht club franchises. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing.”
In its clubs alone, there are around 500 to 600 members with more than 100 people on the waiting list.
Brantley Brokaw and his family’s decision to join the club two years ago ended up coming at the right time.
When the pandemic hit, they began to travel to Austin’s Rough Hollow location on Lake Travis, more than double their normal amount.
“The family we joined the Yacht Club with also doubled their bookings,” said Brantley Brokaw. “I was working a lot more hours from home. We absolutely had to relax and just get out on the water.
This is a trend that Marquardt has observed since the start of the pandemic.
“I would ideally like to expand, add slips and add boats, but unfortunately in Austin every marina in town is on a waiting list,” Marquardt said.
To add additional members, he must provide more boats. He says the problem is there’s nowhere to store extra boats on Lake Travis or Lake Austin. Due to demand, there is currently a waiting period of about one to two years before someone can purchase a boat slip.
Although he says it’s unique to the Austin area, there is a similar boating boom happening in his Texas and national sites.
“We saw the same demand in Dallas, but I think there weren’t as many people who came to the area to buy boats,” Marquart said. “It was still radically different. Every yacht club, at least in the freedom zone, has seen tremendous growth in the last year. More members than any previous year.
Buying a boat can also be time consuming. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, boat sales across the country peaked in 13 years in 2020 and are expected to continue increasing this summer. It has also found an average of 31,000 new boats sold each month since the summer of 2020.
“Normally we buy our boats and make ordering decisions in October for spring deliveries,” Marquardt said. “This year, we built them in January for next spring, so we can have enough boats to reverse our inventory, which we do every two years.”
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