Contrasting signs from the nautical market. Very positive for maxi ribs, large vessels and yachts. At a halt for small watercraft and boats
by Francesco Michienzi
The Italian nautical industry has outclassed our country’s other manufacturing sectors with increasingly positive financial results. Order books at unprecedented levels, balance sheet figures and very attractive margins represent just some of the aspects of an economy that seems to be growing despite crises of various kinds. We have already described the reasons: boats as a means of social distancing, an increased desire to immerse oneself in unspoilt nature and, perhaps, also a lower propensity to save. In 2022 it was difficult to purchase any kind of boat, RIB or yacht. Not to mention the second-hand market, where the prices were higher than we’ve ever seen. The waiting times were excessive for owners looking for their dream boat. Just twelve months later the situation seems to be completely different. Marine Max, one of the biggest operators on the US market, has gone from a stock of zero to 4,000 boats in its shipyards.
THE NAUTICAL INDUSTRY IS EXPERIENCING
GREAT SALES SUCCESS FOR BOATS OVER EIGHTEEN METRES LONG AND FOR YACHTS, BUT A MAJOR SLOWDOWN FOR SMALL WATERCRAFT
Although they’re small-medium vessels, this is an indication that the tide is turning. Medium-term events in the USA also affect the European markets. A quick exchange of information with the major Italian manufacturers shows that boats from 18/20 metres and up are not yet affected by this slowdown, and the same applies to RIBs over ten metres. Meanwhile, the watercrafts measuring five, six and seven metres long have ground to a halt. However, this doesn’t seem to affect the majority of Italian yards, which are very happy to sell their top-of-the-range boats. Despite this, it is still caused for concern, as without the users who start their yachting lives with small vessels there will be no future for anyone.
Honing a new generation of yachts people is a duty no one can shirk. But what are the obstacles new users are facing? The initial cost of the vessel is certainly an issue, although there are package offers comprising boat, engine and trailer that can be purchased with small monthly instalments. The lack of widespread infrastructure around our coasts. Running costs that are not always adequate. And last, but not least, the cultural aspect of a complex issue such as yachting is not always accessible to everyone. Regarding costs, the market with its rules does not leave room for manoeuvre. However, there is plenty that could be done concerning the rest.
ITALY NEEDS A REAL NAUTICAL TOURISM DEVELOPMENT PLAN THAT COULD BE
THE KEY TO LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
WITH GREATER PEACE
That includes developing those infrastructure projects that have been at a standstill for years, such as the Otranto marina, approved in 1997 and never built. Many others could improve the services they offer to yacht owners, but which are enmeshed by suffocating bureaucracy. In this regard, we also need to strengthen the infrastructure of ports and marinas and increase the breadth and depth of the seabed.
In global terms, Italy accounts for 1.7% of marinas and 8% of berths and moorings. It has one port or marina for every 14.2 kilometres, while France has one for every eight and Spain one for every 6.4. In Italy there are 2.37 berths for every thousand inhabitants, in Spain, there are 2.8, in France 3.9 and in Croatia 4.5. This is a gap that must be bridged as soon as possible. There are lots of conferences, talks and speeches at all political levels. But we are still far removed from understanding the importance of nautical tourism as a key element in terms of general economic development. Services and culture are an essential combination that should be supported by forward-thinking policies. There are plenty of ideas and plans. However, there is a major shortfall in political willpower to tackle these issues with real pragmatism and resolve them.
(Thinking of the future, the editorial by Franco Michienzi – Barchemagazine.com – March 2023)