The 2018 Boating Year in Review

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As 2018 draws to a close, we asked a number of industry figures to nominate their highlights of the past year, what they are looking forward to in 2019 and how they’ll be spending the holiday break (if they get one...)

Steve Walker, Boating Industry Association of Victoria

This year has definitely been a strong one for BIAV and I’ve enjoyed immensely my own initial period in the CEO role. Significant highlights include: a successful effort to make access to the water, boat ramps and boating funding a prominent state election issue with both sides of politics making significant pre-election commitments; a successful RACV Marine Melbourne Boat Show as measured by full exhibitor occupancy, a visitor increase on previous years, two new major and two new corporate sponsor partnerships, excellent exhibitor satisfaction, positive visitor feedback, and a good operational result overall for BIAV; improved member and stakeholder relations, captured through two statewide ‘Road Show’ programs and extensive consultation with regard to the current and future direction of BIAV and the industry. This was reflected in a membership up-swing and a positive trend in the initial responses to the Member Satisfaction Survey.

As well as these highlights, governance reform continued in the right direction with a consolidated financial position, a unified and strategic board, well-structured and supportive committees, and dedicated and experienced staff. Progress was also made with regard to a new constitution with a proposed streamlining of the board structure.

Many other advocacy ‘battles’ were encountered, or fought. Some were won, some delayed, none were really lost. The proposed wake ban on parts of the Murray has not happened, so that’s a win at this stage. A new boat ramp is in the planning for Maribyrnong. An unsatisfactory Concept Plan for Patterson River drafted by DELWP has not progressed. A greywater treatment system imposition on Eildon houseboats has been resisted at this stage. There is progress at Westernport regarding a major new launching facility. And many other issues are progressing.

Next year is expected to see a consolidation of the 2018 progress with incremental improvement for the boat show, for our advocacy efforts and for special project areas in education (industry skills) and participation (Life’s Better with a Boat). We hope to take steps in regard to making the bays and waterways more accessible and then use our limited resources to promote boating activations to get lapsed and new people boating, and current boaters in Victoria more satisfied. We hope to see this leading to industry growth and, in line with our vision, a Thriving Boating Industry.

In between and during the summer, I plan to take to the water, mainly in Westernport off Cowes, and in Port Phillip off bayside for some sailing, fishing and cruising, and affirming that Life’s Better with a Boat.

Jason Mitchell, All Marine Spares

For All Marine Spares 2018 was a year full of development, improvements, new products and strategic growth planning in supporting the growing marine industry in Australia. Key highlights for our team were the introduction of leading brands Propspeed, Solas Propellers and Dockedge to our growing list of brands and categories while also introducing a now three-person sales and customer service team based in Queensland with an office now in Maroochydore to further support this important part of the market for AMS.

Some standouts this year were the very well attended and supported Sanctuary Cove and Sydney boat shows, our continued growth and partnerships with our location in Western Australia, while the HIGHLIGHT remains the massive growth of the Corrosion Seminars hosted and developed by AMS and Logix Group across Australia to ensure we are supporting, educating and providing value to our customers on important topics such as corrosion that effect all boaters and marine related businesses.

Next year will be an exciting one as we have some great new products coming on board as we start to add an accessories range of products to AMS along with the possible addition of a new location in the first quarter of 2019.

With any luck there will be some time off in January when my wife and I like to escape to our place on North Stradbroke Island which is a favourite for us, possibly because my phone and emails don’t work all that well there (just joking).

Suzanne Davies, D’Albora Marinas

The highlight of 2018 for me was joining d’Albora Marinas as CEO. While I was ready for a new and exciting challenge, I had 12 wonderful years at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club and left reflecting on the decade of change in the industry and sport of sailing.

In 2019 the industry will continue to see standards lifting as marine business operators take on an even more professional approach as investment increases from broader sources in response to the opportunities fuelled by the continuing rise in wealth and changing demographics.

Industry bodies such as the BIA and MIA will play important roles in supporting our industry generally to ensure that governments understand the contributions of the industry and how they can help in enabling it to flourish. These industry bodies will also be critical in supporting smaller operators and in promoting our industry as a career of choice - one where there are opportunities to develop and grow, so that our industry has a well-educated, qualified and professional workforce.

Next year will be a busy one at d’Albora as the new owners are committed to a $50 million capital works and investment program. There will be facility upgrades, product diversification and new additions to our marina group. It’s a really exciting time for all the d’Albora staff as the opportunities to grow and move with the organisation are fantastic.

Summer for me will be ensuring that the teams at our seven sites are well supported during this very busy time and preparing for what will be an extraordinary year ahead.

Alan Blake, Boating Industry Association

This has been an interesting year for many reasons. As the President of the Boating Industry Association Ltd we have used this time to review our position. Member prosperity is at the forefront of our work and this year has been one to refresh our planning and to clear efforts of no value to our members, and to rebuild efforts in those areas where we are lacking.

On a personal note, my family business, Blakes Marine, opened a new state-of-the-art recreational boating showroom and workshop.

The year seems to have gone by very quickly. That said, I do feel confidence returning to our industry and market place. Shows around the country went very well and we have seen a definite increase in business.

I am looking forward to 2019. From a personal business point of view, we believe this upturn will continue and we are gearing up for it. As the BIA president, I look forward to the launch of the updated business plan and putting in place the various program elements for the next five years.

This summer will be one that won’t take me too far from home. We will have plenty to do making sure our customers are looked after. On weekend mornings I am tied up as co-host of radio program Hi-Tide on 2SM. This is something I have been doing for 20 years and very much enjoy. However, February will see me away. Together with some mates, I will be taking my pride and joy, MV Goolara, down the coast to take our place in the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart.

I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Xmas and a prosperous new year.

Lyndon Turner, Nautilus Marine Insurance

Personally, I feel the highlights through 2018 have been the continued growth and professionalism through our company, and the success of our product and services evolution, including the Helm app and update to our very successful magazine. Improvements across our products and services have seen strong client retention, acquisition and business growth. Having over 50 staff with a great attitude and culture is driven off the fact they have the opportunity to create growth, development and see reward in their initiatives.

At an industry level, the professionalism I see in all facets of recreational marine is testament to the people within it. The continued recognition there is choice in discretionary spending has ensured leading boating industry members are working within their businesses to keep expectations met. Well done to all.

Challenges are ever present but 2019 will be interesting to watch early, especially for our group. Outcomes from a Royal Commission and worldwide toughening of the insurance market capital, reducing appetite and creating pricing pressure, will continue to push change. Not that these changes are unexpected, or unfair. These changes are critical to long-term viability of insurers, expected consumer outcomes and a platform for businesses in this market to continue to improve their game. We are already working on early 2019 releases to assist our business growth.

I’ll be looking forward to a brief break. It’s a busy time for our business, boat usage is high, and we need to provide the service we promote, in a time of need, so we adjust responsibilities to ensure expectations are met, including my support. But all that said, a couple of quiet beers and Xmas will be nice.

Johan Hasser, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show

When asked to reflect on the year that was, I immediately think back to the final day of the 2018 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (SCIBS) and the array of positive feedback I was hearing from exhibitors at our milestone 30th anniversary showcase. Between numerous exhibitors hosting world launches, a multitude of national launches and a range of companies setting new SCIBS sales records, there was plenty to smile about. More than 45,000 people had walked through the gates across the four days, a significant increase on the previous year. An incredible 500 plus boats had been presented on land and water.

The marine industry was undoubtedly on an upward trajectory. Better still, I believe it is in a great position to continue in that direction. The past 12-18 months have seen steady growth across the entire industry, with favourable market conditions allowing new boat sales across all segments to grow.

Given such optimism for future industry growth and positive sentiment about SCIBS 2018, we are looking forward to delivering next year’s boat show. In 2019, we have plans to maintain our strong commitment to the marine industry and will be investing more to ensure that the show will be bigger and better for exhibitors.

That means a marina filled with world-class luxury boat brands, streets overflowing with quality Australian and international trailer boats, and pavilions boasting cutting-edge electronics, navigation, clothing, chandlery and any other marine accessory imaginable.

When it comes to trends to keep an eye out for in 2019, I believe the industry will be looking towards the increasing optimisation of our current propulsion systems and further implementation of ‘green’ technologies, not to forget the inevitable march towards computerisation and automation of electronic systems and tools.

On a personal note, I’m already looking forward to the huge array of business events where companies get to socialise with each other, network and ultimately grow their businesses. SCIBS plays its own part on that front by presenting the industry with an ideal opportunity to showcase itself to the public during the day before coming together at evening events.

Hopefully I’ll see you at one of them in 2019.

Trevor Robinson, Lakeside Marine

This year has seen us embracing the transition of the Tohatsu brand from a renowned two-stroke leader to a force to be recognised in new technology outboards. Tohatsu has had some great product in new technology for decades but needed more public recognition and maybe some work on the brand to take it into the future.

In 2018, the Tohatsu brand and logo changes have been embraced globally with the group pulling together to build the story. Boat shows throughout the world, including Sydney and Brisbane, have been centre stage with the highlights of ‘Simpliq Technology’ and ‘Feel the Wind’ giving the customer the perspective of change, ease of use, advanced engineering and development.

We are now seeing the results of the above with sales and enquiries of the class leading new tech four-stroke mid-range engines showing positive results. Feedback on the MFS15/20 EFI lightweight is a prime example and, if it’s anything to go by, the future looks good.

Tohatsu Corporation continues to take a positive view on the future with the massive ¥5.5 billion outlay on the R&D Centre, now operational. With a cumulative total of 4 million units produced by early 2018, the R&D centre will only enhance the growth and potential as new product is developed and released.

Lakeside Marine, the Australian distributor of Tohatsu Outboards, is looking forward to the next phase of new technology engines due in 2019 and beyond.

The market is clearly competitive (more so with well-publicised changes mid next year) from an outboard perspective and the disposable leisure dollar, not to mention the real economic pressure viewpoint. Having said that, we as an industry are pulling together with a consolidated BIA (to an extent) to put some new programs in place to meet these challenges (eg on water programs at shows).

We need to ensure the younger generation is exposed to all the facets of boating large and small. With changes now underway, cost of entry level boating is potentially higher, and so marketing and benefits are key. What I have found (talking to customers) is that many buyers have not as yet come to grips with the increased cost of boating and new technology. We need to consider this in marketing all facets.

The team at Tohatsu not only market the product, we enjoy it. We plan to get out on water as much as possible over the warmer months and, in doing so, show the public what the group has to offer. What I have found over the last year is that people at the ramps are taking note of the new four-stroke outboards as they do stand out visually. In turn, comments about how good they look and perform are great to hear, ‘Word of mouth’ is one of the best forms of marketing.

We have also again extended the Surf Life Saving National Buy Deal on the M25HP model and look forward to helping them do a great job this season and beyond.

Darren Vaux, Empire Marine Bobbin Head and Beds on Board

This year has been a positive one with continued growth and subtle changes. The cooling of the property market has taken the pressure off the reserve bank to raise interest rates, so in a lot of respects it has been business as usual. Boat show attendance rates have been steady or growing and anecdotal feedback from industry regarding new boat sales and business more generally has been positive. The value of second hand boats has held up and that market has been challenged for stock as a result of the low numbers of new boats built during the GFC affected years between 2008 and 2013. Overall I have found the government attitude around the country to our industry to be positive and, in a number of areas, pro-active. There are always challenges and probably the most significant this year (for all those involved including the Authority) has been the transition from the States to the National Law with AMSA and the domestic commercial vessels. No doubt this will settle down in the transition to 2019.

My personal highlights included Empire Marina Bobbin Head being the first marina in Australia to be awarded the international 5 Gold Anchor Platinum status and, at the time, one of only three in the world. Another was my son Tommy releasing his free app ‘Boatmaster’ on Appstore and Android that teaches people to berth a range of boats in marinas. He now has over 10,000 users worldwide and has proved the potential for simulation apps for training in the marine industry. I also enjoyed staying on a number of different boats as accommodation in the UK and Europe through the bedsonboard.com platform while on business. In doing so I got to experience first-hand a range of boat types as well as putting money directly back into our industry. It made me think what a difference we could all make to our industry if we chose to stay on boats instead of hotels when we travelled. Food for thought.

I have a positive outlook for 2019 although I believe that consumer confidence will be dampened by the political uncertainty associated with the NSW State Election to be held in March and a Federal Election by May. With Brexit also due in March next year the first half of the year will be dominated by the perception of economic risk. I say perception as in reality with unemployment and interest rates at low levels the economic fundamentals in Australia remain strong and a cooling of the residential property market within limits is not a bad thing as it limits the exposure to a significant bust.

Next year will see the continuing pervasive development of the sharing economy in the marine industry. There will be a push to expand opportunities for charter, bare boat hire, shared ownership, peer-to-peer and other pathways not yet thought of where more people can access boats. Given that the ratio of boating participation to boat ownership will continue to grow, as it has done for many years, our success will be driven by dramatically growing participation. As an industry we have some way to go to appreciate what this means and what we have to do to address it.

It certainly has been a busy and productive year. I have enjoyed the challenges and the opportunities and the support and relationships with my industry friends and colleagues. I am certainly looking forward to spending time with my family and friends on the boat over the summer. It always reminds me that we truly are living the dream.

Simon McLean, Club Marine

I’m happy to report it’s been a year of highlights for Club Marine, beginning with the launch of our comprehensive Member Rewards program and being listed in the AFR as one of Australia’s most innovative companies. An NPS score of 58% underlined the major focus we’ve had on our claims and other member services, which has no doubt had an impact on the strong growth we’ve seen in our core markets.

On the industry front, it’s been great to see so much genuine innovation coming through, with a host of new products from industry leaders like Mercury, Sea-Doo and Maritimo, with its new X60. It’s also good to see local manufacturing thriving, with companies like Riviera building and distributing world-class boats across the globe.

It has also been pleasing to see strong investment in infrastructure, with the expansion of The Boat Works on the Gold Coast being a prime example.

With that said, I see some challenges ahead. The availability of money from financiers, lower house values in some markets and the uncertainty created by a coming Federal election are factors that may have an impact on discretionary spending. This, combined with changes to dealer flex commissions in finance, may impact a number of marine businesses.

In order to be successful in 2019 I think it is crucial that we all work together to focus on key issues such as promoting boating as a safe and enjoyable pastime and further investment in boating infrastructure.

In the meantime, I’m closing out the year with a fishing expedition to Groote Eylandt, followed by some quality family time on the Gold Coast, which will likely include eating too much, playing beach cricket and finding any excuse to get out on the water with family and friends.

Damien Weber, Raymarine

In mid-2018 we released the Axiom XL series of multi-function devices which, combined with the Axiom and Axiom Pro ranges, completed a very comprehensive portfolio of networked product, ranging in size from 7 to 24 inches.

Complementing the hardware platform, the Raymarine LightHouse 3 operating system has also delivered some very exciting industry firsts in 2018. One feature that grabbed the imagination of boaters and anglers across the country is our UAV or drone integration. Offering unprecedented control and viewability of your drone from the helm, this ability has been a very exciting addition to the Axiom/LHIII feature set. Combine with this a unique set of apps available on all Axiom family MFDs such as Spotify, Netflix, Theyr Weather, Mazu, Lumishore and Seakeeper, the result is that the skipper and crew are now more informed and entertained than ever before, whether at sea or tucked away in their favourite anchorage.

Led by the M232 Thermal Camera, another very satisfying trend witnessed in 2018 has been the growth in adoption of thermal imaging on boats of all sizes, providing the ultimate in close range situational awareness.

Very recently, Raymarine released details of the new Element range of standalone MFDs that will hit stores in Q1 2019. This is a hugely exciting release for Raymarine, offering a feature packed unit to suit any small- to mid-sized fishing boat. With a quad-core processor and an unprecedented built-in six-channel sonar, including RealVision 3D as well as the all new HyperVision mode, Element will provide 3x the clarity of conventional side and down imaging sonars. We are very excited to be introducing this range to customers and dealers in early 2019.

I am eager to see the continued growth of thermal imaging in 2019 and continued feature enhancements such as the recently released range detection on ClearCruise. Early adopters recognised the benefits of thermal some time ago and now we’re seeing anyone with a mid-range hardtop and above starting to consider a thermal camera in their navigation packages. I’m fully expecting thermal to go from strength to strength in 2019 and become a much more mainstream part of an electronics package.

Clear Cruise ARTM Augmented Reality, Raymarine’s latest enhancement to situational awareness, is set to revolutionise the way boaters view the world around them. By overlaying details of navigation markers, AIS targets, waypoints and other information over Axiom family high definition, real time video displays, skippers can see at a glance dangers that may otherwise be missed in bad weather or busy waterways.

Over summer I’m looking forward to some time in and around the water and quality time with family and friends. I’m also hoping to watch the Australian cricket team recapture some winning form against India or, failing that, I’ll settle for a relaxing break and will no doubt appreciate some masterful batting from Virat Kohli!

 This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of Marine Business magazine.

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