B.C.'S New­est Growth In­dus­try

Recre­ational boat­ing has $1.3 bil­lion in spinoffs to deal­ers, ser­vice stores, mari­nas and man­u­fac­tur­ers

BC Business Magazine - - Boating In B.c. -

Men­tion recre­ation in Bri­tish Columbia to any­one, and among the im­ages con­jured will be those of kayak­ers, power boaters, yacht­ing en­thu­si­asts, and other aquat­i­cally in­clined peo­ple hav­ing fun on the province's in­nu­mer­able wa­ter­ways.

So al­lur­ing are the im­ages — and boat­ing it­self — that they tend to ob­scure the propo­si­tion of boat­ing be­ing big busi­ness in B.C.

In fact, it's a huge in­dus­try that has grown by al­most 30 per­cent in the past five years. Last year, a Na­tional Ma­rine Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NMMA) Canada study found that recre­ational boat­ing in­jected $1.3 bil­lion into B.C.'S econ­omy in 2016 on rev­enues of $2.2 bil­lion, and em­ployed nearly 17,000 Bri­tish Columbians — with boat deal­ers and ser­vice stores, mari­nas, and boat man­u­fac­tur­ers among the big­gest con­trib­u­tors within the core in­dus­try.

“Recre­ational boat­ing causes rev­enue to flow into other sec­tors, such as tourism. In 2016, B.C. res­i­dents and vis­i­tors spent al­most $1.8 bil­lion on goods and ser­vices,” says Don Prit­tie, Pres­i­dent of Boat­ing BC — the voice of recre­ational boat­ing in the province with 315 mem­ber com­pa­nies.

The NMMA re­port also high­lighted the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of recre­ational boat­ing in smaller com­mu­ni­ties by not­ing that the pop­u­la­tions of small towns where boat­ing is preva­lent more than dou­ble dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son.

Mari­nas are a fo­cal point for ac­tiv­ity, and many towns ex­pe­ri­ence a steady in­crease in boaters year af­ter year.

Bar­bara Des­jardins, Mayor of Esquimalt, says the city has ac­tively en­cour­aged recre­ational boat­ing trade for decades by en­sur­ing the pub­lic has am­ple ac­cess to the wa­ter. “We rec­og­nize the sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact and how it ben­e­fits our busi­nesses over­all— es­pe­cially dur­ing sum­mer when vis­i­tors come in droves with their kayaks and other craft. They not only pa­tron­ize our wa­ter­ways, but also our restau­rants, stores and other venues.”

Bet­ter still, with the B.C. econ­omy fir­ing on all cylin­ders, the in­dus­try is grow­ing. Bren­dan Keys, who be­came a boat­ing en­thu­si­ast shortly af­ter em­i­grat­ing from Ire­land in 1989 and to­day is a part­ner of GA Check­point Yamaha (one of the province's lead­ing in­flat­able and out­board deal­ers), says: “Our sales have grown 20 to 25 per­cent an­nu­ally for the past three years, and the ap­peal of the pas­time is that you're not just buy­ing a boat, you're buy­ing into a life­style, one that is all-inclusive: whether it's a $500 kayak or a yacht you can sail up and down the coast, there's an ideal boat for you.”

Keys doesn't ex­pect the growth to abate any time soon. “Thanks to re­tir­ing boomers seek­ing the good life, and new­com­ers to B.C. with a lot of dis­pos­able in­come, busi­ness will con­tinue to be brisk,” he says. “Add the fact that our sum­mers are be­com­ing longer and drier, and you have an in­dus­try full of op­por­tu­nity.”

But it is also an in­dus­try fac­ing its fair share of chal­lenges. B.C.'S white-hot real es­tate mar­ket is caus­ing sub­stan­tial trans­for­ma­tions of cities and small towns, in­clud­ing more wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment. “Un­for­tu­nately, we're see­ing a de­cline in the num­ber of free and ac­ces­si­ble places where boaters can get to the wa­ter,” says Prit­tie.

Plus, as is the case with many other in­dus­tries, the recre­ational boat­ing

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