The emergence of the COVID-19 crisis has clearly impacted nearly every aspect of our society. And, while there are more pressing concerns than boating and fishing, these activities are important to the lifestyle of many. In this article, we discuss the findings from a recent BoaterInput survey on the impact of Coronavirus on boating and fishing. Responses were received from 151 boaters between March 22nd and March 31st, 2020.
Coronavirus Boater Survey Findings
While the COVID-19 crisis will curtail boating for some, many boaters intend to remain active.
In our survey, over half (60%) indicated that they plan on boating as much (no impact) or more as a result of the crisis. Nearly one-third (30%) will likely boat less.
Of those who intend to go at least as much as before, key reasons were that they already boat/fish by themselves or with close family members only, they have more time, or it is a good way to practice “social distancing”. However, many acknowledged that the closing of lakes or parks could impact their plans and, when they do go, they would be less likely to visit marinas and other on-water establishments.
- “For me, it’s a good way to social distance. I fish by myself.”
- “COVID-19 should have NO impact on myself or fellow boaters if we all agree to work diligently with public health officials, CDC, etc. It is my, and my fellow boating Americans, responsibility to make sure we are not spreading the virus. I cannot speak for everyone but I typically boat/fish alone or with a close friend, and never in a large group. Mostly recreational. I feel that it’s a great time to continue to participate in outdoor activities and boating/fishing just so happens to be one of a few activities to allow us to distance ourselves socially while keeping up our spirits at a time when the world seems to be under a massive amount of pressure. It’s an ideal stress reliever and as long as there is no evidence to suggest being out on the water is dangerous, I will be there.”
But for the nearly one-third (30%) of boaters who will likely boat less, lake/park closures, travel restrictions and the need to limit who and how many can boat with them were the key reasons.
- “Because we usually go camping when we go fishing and all the places we go camping are closed because of the virus. So not sure if we will even buy a fishing license to go this year.”
- “During the state of emergency in Michigan, we are required to shelter in place. We are only allowed to leave our home for necessities like groceries or a medical emergency.”
- “I will be reluctant to invite other than immediate family on my boat until while social distancing recommendations are effective.”
Concerns regarding the virus will impact WHO people go boating with.
Half of the boaters surveyed indicated that the current crisis will change who gets to go on their boat. For many, this means that only their spouse/significant other or close family members (i.e., children) will be able to participate.
However, approximately only a quarter indicated that the current situation will alter where they go boating or what they do when taking their boat out.
Many would like to see dealers and marinas remain open and accessible for service or maintenance items.
When boaters were asked how the industry could support them during the crisis, the most common response was that they did not need support. This was especially true among those who don’t plan to use their boat or will use it less often.
However, others felt it was important for dealers & marinas to keep their doors open (even if for a limited time), practice safe habits (e.g., keep facilities clean, wear gloves/protective gear, disinfect surfaces, schedule appointments to minimize congestion, etc.) and offer alternative ways to purchase parts/maintenance items or receive service.
- “In my area, we need the marinas to stay in operation.”
- “Just have someone available to either repair or contact for problems.”
- “Just staying open for parts and repairs.”
- “Be available to service and repair my boat when needed.”
- “I would love to have my local service center come pick up my boat for service and then return it when done.”
- “Simple drop off and then pay online then pick up for any needed services.”
- “Provide ways to pay online for service, and maintain social distancing in the shop.”
- “Keep facilities clean.”
- “Servicemen and maintenance individuals providing sanitization after handling controls or any door access points.”
This study reaffirmed the importance of boating and fishing to many households across America. And, in some regards, it is more important than ever given the stress and uncertainty associated with this pandemic.
Because many boaters intend to remain active, the challenge for dealers and marinas will be to find new ways to support boaters at this time. This could include things like offering pick-up and delivery service, making parts available for mail delivery, providing phone or chat support for service issues, implementing safe practices to protect the health of customers and employees, and continually communicating with the public regarding changes to business policies, hours of operation, and the status of local parks and waterways.
This is the message I conveyed to the Marine Retailers Association of America and numerous others throughout the marine industry. While I cannot guarantee that all of these recommendations will be implemented, I can tell you that your needs have been heard.
And this was made possible because of the input received in our survey. Special thanks to all 151 of you for giving a little of your time for the betterment of the overall boater community.