Competition remains fierce as boat owners, captains, and tour operators look to meet the demand of travelers craving unique and memorable experiences.
From a catamaran in California or a kayak in Croatia, water-based recreational experiences are in high demand, according to boat booking trends.
For one boat rental company, GetMyBoat with over 150 000 water experiences in 184 countries, bookings have increased nine-fold when comparing January 2019 to this January. As a result, boat owners, captains, and tour operators are seeing growth as their boats are rented more frequently, increasing their earnings, which range from $25,000 annually to over $100,000 a month.
The continued craving for unique and memorable experiences has seen boating and getting out on the water become a cool culture rooted in specific destinations. Miami is one such example.
Marcel Perdomo, the owner of Mboat Rental based in Miami, Florida said he had gone from a recreational boat owner to a fully fledge boat rental business. He started in 2017 with one recreational boat that he would list for weekend tours, on what he describes as this Airbnb or Uber for boats. He now owns three boats and has booked over 3 200 tours with GetMyBoat, earning a Super Host title as the operator with the most bookings on the platform.
Tapping Into Boating Culture
“We’ve been able to make this boating culture cool. If you go to Los Angeles, you’ll probably go see the movie studios, that kind of stuff. If you go to New York, you go to Broadway.
“If you come to Miami, you have to go boating!”
In 2022, just over 2,500 available boats, houseboats, or yachts were in the U.S., reaching an occupancy of 51.5 percent and over $54 million in revenue — AirDNA data further outlines the most popular locations are Key West, Florida, Miami and U.S. Virgin Islands.
The boat listings market is more than triple the size in Europe with 8 800 offerings, with a lucrative value of over $200 million, according to AirDNA, with occupancy reaching 49 percent in 2022.
GetMyBoat spokesperson Val Streif told Skift its January bookings are tracking a “booming year in travel spending and is projected to increase as we get closer to the summer holidays and the peak season of 2023.”
“Our takeaway is that despite recession indicators, it’s clear that consumers still want to have memorable experiences with their friends and families while traveling.”
Unsurprisingly, demand for water-based experiences ebbs and flows, with the peak summer periods seeing the highest bookings. AirDNA data shows demand in summer 2021 broke pre-pandemic records. It continued into 2022, increasing by a nominal 1 percent for quarter three compared to quarter three in 2018.
While overnight boating options are available on GetMyBoat, they are not as popular as the two-hour or half-day boating experiences, said Streif, who added that before applications like GetMyBoat, the boat charter industry was “an extremely fragmented market and was inaccessible to most of the public.”
Perdomo said his business has only continued to grow. His boating business journey has been very simple with GetMyBoat, capitalizing on the “growth spurt caused by the pandemic”.
“I would say that the last two years, 2020 and 2021, were amazing years. I don’t think we’ll ever see something like that again.
“The crowds that we had were just crazy. I was renting $5,000 to 7,000 yachts weekly. It doesn’t happen as often anymore. And the economy has hit a little bit.
“People were able to do remote work. So a lot of people came to Florida, and Miami specifically, because rent was lower than in New York. We were also more free than other states as far as Covid restrictions. Clubs were closed, restaurants were closed, beaches were closed, parks were closed. Boats were never closed.
“People realize that the boats were available, that’s when the boom happened. Whoever was ready to expand did very well.”
Competition Heating Up
Perdomo admits 2022 was a harder year as competition has heated up due to the demand.
“Even though the competition is fierce right now, there is still good business for everyone,” he added.
Perdomo’s three boats include his first boat, a 2017 Yamaha Jet boat, a 2000 55′ Sea Ray Sundancer, and a remodeled 2020 50′ Sea Ray sedan bridge. His company makes roughly 150 to 200 bookings a month with these three boats.
During a peak month, he said each boat does about 30 rentals with gross sales of about $45,000 each.
Perdomo added that GetMyBoat works to secure travelers beyond his usual beat of Miami and that being an independent sub-contractor since they invest in doing all the performance marketing to grow the audience and secure new customers for his offering.
“I pay them a commission fee 7.5 percent of the booking listings and they charge the renter 7 percent on return of the boat, it is totally doable.
“Most of our customers come from within the United States. Atlanta, New York, California, Texas is the biggest draw for our business. Maryland is a big state that we get a lot of tourism from. I would say about 40 percent of our customers are African American.”
“If you live in Miami, you have your hook-ups, you don’t need an app for a boat. So most of our customers via GetMyBoat come from outside the state of Florida, and it’s seasonal. In January and February, we get a lot of snowbirds from Canada fleeing the cold. And then high season starts in March up until September, especially when the days are longer.
When it comes to offering a more sustainable approach he says he just cannot risk it right now.
“Electric boats are complicated in this business as these types of batteries would not last for 12 hours of continued use. I just wouldn’t take the risk.”
“The fuel is expensive but since my engines are diesel it’s okay. The more fuel I use is directly related to more rentals, therefore it doesn’t worry me. ”
He estimated fuel cost to be about $75 every four hours, which he added is “nominal against the $1 300 per 4-hour booking charged in his big boat.” Other added costs include maintenance, dockage and fuel, with labor costs sitting at about $ 2 500 per month. Perdomo indicated he was pretty happy with his margins, which he said sees the business “generate above $2 million a year”.
Putting an Expensive Asset To Work
Streif noted that the solution of a boat rental app allows for global connectivity and customization according to the type of experience customers are looking for, making boating more accessible. She estimated that on average boats are only used 6-8 percent of the year.
“That means during the other 92-94 percent of the year they sit idle and unused. To add to this, boats are an expensive asset to purchase and maintain. They depreciate, and have high monthly costs. In many cases, the only access to boats was via a travel agent, two levels removed from the boat owner. We connect people that are looking to get out on the water with charter boat businesses that need customers.
“Not only can someone defray the cost of ownership, but they can also turn their boat into a stream of revenue.”
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Photo credit: Boating offers a memorable experience. Source: GetMyBoat GetMyBoat