Italy’s natural lake and coastal resources, 104 ports and marinas, and 8,000 miles of waterways, make it a primelocation for a thriving pleasure boat market. According to the Minister of Transport and Navigation and Italian PortAuthorities there are approximately 615,600 pleasure crafts in Italy.
Contrary to the downturn in the North American market, the Italian (and European in general) pleasure boatmarket enjoyed record sales in 2007. Research published by the market research firm EComposites indicatesthat Europe achieved the world’s highest growth rate during the last five years as European-based boatmakers were strategically more aggressive and subsequently increased their market share significantly ascompared to 2000.
The entire nautical market in Italy is worth $8.5 billion. Of this, the pleasure boat segment constitutes more than$5 billion, the second largest worldwide after the United States (worth $15.6 billion). The total number of importsof pleasure boats in 2007 is valued at $661 million, up from $586 million in 2006, an increase of 12.8 percent.Approximately 20 percent of imports came from the Americas in 2007, marking an increase of 16 percent over 2006. According to Global Trade Atlas foreign trade statistics, the value of U.S. exports to Italy in 2008 in thepleasure boating segments was $362 million, an increase of 30 percent from 2007. The growing trend of American imports is partly due a favorable exchange rate making imports more affordable.
The main indicators in the Italian pleasure boat market continue to show a fairly stable market, notwithstanding therecent economic and financial crises that have created turbulence and difficulties for worldwide commerce. According to analysts, this sector will continue to steadily grow thanks in large part to the leasing formula that has become very popular in Italy.
There are many opportunities for American businesses in the Italian pleasure boat market. Besides exports of newand used motorboats, sailboats, inflatable boats and motors, opportunities can be found in exporting marineaccessories, such as safety devices and nautical software, as well as in the development and management ofItalian marinas. In these fields, American products lead in quality, technology, and reliability.
Contrary to the downturn in the North American market, the Italian (and European in general) pleasure boatmarket enjoyed record sales in 2007. Research published by the market research firm EComposites indicates that Europe achieved the world’s highest growth rate during the last five years as European-based boatmakers were strategically more aggressive and subsequently increased their market share significantly as compared to 2000.
During the last several years, the Italian market has shown heightened interested in the purchase of pleasureboats. Market growth has been encouraged by economic developments such as the implementation of “boater friendly” legislation that reduced fees for boat ownership, eliminating a great number of previously imposed bureaucratic requirements.
Market growth has also been stimulated by the leasing system which allows the average family easier access.Leasing options, as well as boat rental options, have opened up the pleasure boat market, not only to Italian boat enthusiasts, but also to foreign tourists. In 2007, the number of new leasing contracts grew by about 22.7 percent. This trend represented 5.3 percent of the total national leasing activity, an increase of one percent over the previous year.
Expansion in marina development has also increased user access. Both national and regional authorities arefocused on projects to develop and modernize ports and marinas in an effort to boost nautical tourism. Italy isa prime location for a thriving pleasure boat market; it has 526 miles of nautical parks and approximately4,700 miles of coastline. Existing marinas are being renovated and new berths are being created. InSouthern Italy alone plans are to more than double the current number of berths. Italia Navigando hasrecently added the port of Trani to the network of ports it manages. An agreement was signed last month fora project aimed at requalification of the port and increase of available berths. Funding should be provided bythe Ministry of Transportation and the Region of Puglia. The program should be underway early next year.The Campania Region recently approved an investment of ten million Euros for the requalification of several ports along the coast of Salerno. Similar projects are underway or planned for other ports in the southern region (“Mezzogiorno”).
Boating in Italy is very popular—many Italians feel a direct connection to their marine heritage. Newspaper and television coverage of boating events, such as the America’s Cup and the Genoa International Boat Show, reflect the high level of interest in boating in Italy.
In terms of boat characteristics: 60 percent of boats in Italy have cabins and 40 percent are open without cabins (reflecting Italians’ interest in day crafts for fishing or to “runabout” in); 28 percent are 22.5 to 30 feet inlength, 31 percent measure 30 to 36 feet, 30 percent are 36 to 48 feet in length, and 4.5 percent measure 48 to 60 feet. Eighty-five percent of boats are constructed from resin-glass.
In terms of specific boat building industry trends, there is an ongoing shift toward larger and more expensive boats.
Due to Italy’s reputation for supplying quality leather and luxury interiors, many boats are imported into Italy solely for custom fittings and are then re-exported. These re-exports are included in the overall production numbers.
By Maria Calabria