British boating sails to sixth year of consecutive growth as fall in pound boosts exports and staycations

  • Revenues grow by 3.4%, as firms navigate Brexit headwinds
  • Demand soars for UK boating getaways, as plunging pound encourages families to holiday at home

The UK’s leisure marine industry has achieved its sixth consecutive year of growth, according to research conducted by Maritime UK member, British Marine. This data was published today at the opening of the London Boat Show, powered by British Marine, being held at ExCeL London from 10 – 14 January.

Industry revenues increased by 3.4% in 2017 - rising to £3.12bn - their highest level since the financial crisis of 2007/08. The sector directly contributed over £1.3bn to the UK economy between March 2016 – April 2017, while supporting over 33,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the UK’s manufacturing and service industries.

And while UK productivity remains sluggish compared to its G20 rivals, the marine sector continues to perform above-average in comparison with other UK industries, with an estimated Gross Valued Added output per worker of over £39,000.

The data comes from an annual survey conducted by British Marine, the membership organisation for the UK’s marine industry.

Howard Pridding, Chief Executive Officer of British Marine, said: “These impressive figures demonstrate how the industry has successfully cashed in on the pound’s devaluation since the Brexit referendum in 2016. In 2017 UK marine industry exports grew by 4.7% to £924m, with the weak pound making British-made boats and products more competitive abroad.”

Business confidence in the industry has also continued to increase over the last 6 months, with a net balance of 41% of British Marine members positive about their future prospects.

The UK’s boating tourism sector also appears to have been a key beneficiary of Brexit, with over 60% of marine tourism operators reporting increased sales over the summer. Marinas and boatyards were the second most positive sector, with a net balance of 47% of companies reporting revenue growth.

British Marine said a rise in staycations helped explain why the two sectors had fared particularly well over the summer. Since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, the pound has fallen 10% against the dollar and 20% against the euro, making it more expensive for UK-based holidaymakers to take foreign holidays.

Mr Pridding commented: “As the pound has dipped, many Brits have rekindled their love for barges, yachting, watersports holidays and canal cruises in and around the UK. Confidence in the sector is at its highest since the credit crunch and we expect to see further growth into 2018. However, we are also clear on the potential challenges we are facing as an industry due to Brexit, including its potential impact on the labour supply chain and rising costs related to overseas procurement. British boating is in good health, but a bad deal with the EU risks capsizing our success.”

The latest industry figures coincide with the launch of the London Boat Show today. The five-day event, being staged at ExCeL in London, will see more than 330 global, national and boutique brands descend on the capital.

Thousands of expected attendees, including HRH The Princess Royal who is attending on the opening day, will have the opportunity to witness 52 world and UK boat launches, as well as 23 product launches. Members of the public will also be able to climb aboard classic boats and sample unique opportunities to get on the water indoors.

Leisure marine is a major part of the UK's maritime sector - adding £2.7bn to the economy and supporting over 100,000 jobs.