4 October 2023

Louisiana’s Boating Sector: A $3.9 Billion Economic Powerhouse

Despite the “normalization” of boat sales after the COVID-19 pandemic, recreational boating remains highly popular among Americans. In Louisiana alone, the recreational boating industry contributes a significant economic impact, generating $3.9 billion, as reported by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). With over 315,000 registered boats in the state, the industry directly supports 790 businesses.

The enduring appeal of outdoor recreation, mental well-being, and unique experiences with loved ones continues to drive the strong demand for boating. This sustained interest brings positive news for boat manufacturers, technicians, marinas, and hospitality businesses associated with the boating industry.

Interestingly, the surge in the boat economy is not solely driven by yacht-owning elites. Instead, it’s the regular folks engaging in activities like fishing, water skiing, sailing, and jet skiing who are contributing to the booming market. In 2020 and 2021, approximately 800,000 first-time boat buyers entered the market, according to NMMA’s senior vice president, Ellen Bradley.

Zooming out, recreational boating’s economic activity has grown substantially between 2018 and 2023, increasing from $170 billion to $230 billion. The marine industry-related jobs also saw a 17.5% rise during this period, reaching 812,000 jobs. Notably, powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft sales peaked in 2020 at 318,654 units, totaling $50.3 billion. Although sales cooled slightly in 2021 with 305,734 units sold, supply chain constraints played a part in limiting inventory availability.

Despite these factors, the industry’s performance remains robust compared to historical standards, with over 261,000 units sold last year and more than 1 million pre-owned boats. Sales are expected to remain stable or even experience slight growth this year.

To make boating more accessible, the industry has been exploring innovative solutions such as subscription-based boat-sharing clubs. One notable example is the Freedom Boat Club, a division of Brunswick, which manufactures popular boat brands like Bayliner, Boston Whaler, and Sea Ray. These endeavors aim to further encourage people to experience the joy of boating and engage with the waterways.