The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the leading trade association representing North American recreational boat, marine engine, and accessory manufacturers, announced recently the growing economic impact of the recreational boating industry across the United States. The 2023 NMMA study reveals recreational boating saw a 36 percent increase in annual economic activity from 2018’s $170 billion to $230 billion in 2023 and a 14 percent jump in recreational marine industry-related jobs from 691,000 in 2018 to 812,000 in 2023.
The leap comes on the heels of record growth in recreational boating between 2020 and 2022 as Americans increasingly prioritized outdoor recreation, mental health, and time with family and friends throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry’s momentum is expected to hold steady in 2023 with sales of new and pre-owned boats on par with 2022 as Americans remain focused on outdoor experiences.
“Recreational boating and fishing are a major economic engine in the U.S. and the latest economic analysis underscores the extraordinary growth and demand our industry has experienced coming out of the pandemic,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president. “The profound impact the past few years have had on our industry cannot be denied as we’ve seen Americans seek out boating and fishing in record numbers, driving significant economic output and supporting tens of thousands of small businesses and nearly a million jobs.”
States leading the nation with the highest economic activity and job growth from recreational boating include:
- Florida: $31.3B, up 53 percent and 109,000 jobs, up 19 percent from 2018
- California: $17.3B, up 53 percent and 48,000 jobs, up 18 percent from 2018
- Texas: $11.8B, up 73 percent and 38,000 jobs, up 47 percent from 2018
- Michigan: $11.7B, up 82 percent and 45,000 jobs, up 45 percent from 2018
- New York: $10B, up 41 percent and 34,000 jobs, down 8 percent from 2018
- North Carolina: $9.1B, up 83 percent and 28,000 jobs, up 39 percent from 2018
- Wisconsin: $8.4B, up 135 percent and 35,000 jobs, up 101 percent from 2018
- Washington: $8.1B, up 35 percent and 23,000 jobs, up 1 percent from 2018
- Georgia: $7.8B, up 100 percent and 27,000 jobs, up 80 percent from 2018
- Minnesota: $6.9B, up 155 percent and 25,000 jobs, up 137 percent from 2018
The U.S. recreational boating industry sold just over 260,000 new boats and more than 1 million pre-owned boats in 2022, ranging from small aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats to pontoons and family cruising and watersports boats. Recreational boating is a uniquely American-made industry with an estimated 95 percent of boats sold in the U.S. being made in the U.S. Approximately 61 percent of U.S. boat owners have an annual household income of $75,000 or less. What’s more, the majority of the 12 million registered boats (95 percent) in the U.S. are smaller than 26 feet in length and are towed by their owners to local waterways.
“With summer on the horizon, we’re anticipating healthy boating participation with more than 85 million people estimated to take to the water in the U.S. amid Americans’ continued appetite for the outdoors and unique experiences,” said Hugelmeyer. “With healthy boating participation comes continued economic activity across the recreational boating ecosystem, from marinas and harbors to hospitality and tourism and manufacturing and service — lifting up vital small businesses and jobs and the local communities they support.”
The 2023 NMMA-produced economic impact study was conducted with economic research firm John Dunham and Associates and includes all marine companies and businesses related to the manufacture, rental, sale, distribution, maintenance, financing, insurance, repair, and storage of recreational boats, marine engines, and marine accessories in the United States.