Boating industry at the Lake sees gradual sales increase

LOMDA Overland Park Show helps influence more boating enthusiasts to area

The boating industry is making a gradual increase in sales in recent years and prepares for an influx of new boating enthusiasts at the upcoming Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association Overland Park Boat Show Jan. 24-27 in the Kansas City area.

The boating industry is making a gradual increase in sales in recent years and prepares for an influx of new boating enthusiasts at the upcoming Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association Overland Park Boat Show Jan. 24-27 in the Kansas City area. Photo by Ceil Abbott.

The Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association (LOMDA) is finalizing preparation for one of its largest annual events, its Overland Park Boat Show, which is scheduled from Jan. 24-27 at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kan.

Boating enthusiasts and newcomers can find an array of the latest 2013 models in top brands available through Lake Area marine dealers and companies at the show, along with an ample array of boating accessories and real estate opportunities.

A 11-year tradition, the LOMDA Overland Park Boat Show is the largest in the Kansas City area and sets the stage for visitors preparing to return to Lake of the Ozarks and hit the water in style. For boaters, they are assured that the boating industry is making its comeback in sales and participation following harsh economic conditions.

According to LOMDA executive director Mike Atkinson, 2008 and 2009 were not good years for the marine industry at the Lake. However, growth has been on building since.

“We have seen some growth, which started in 2010 and there has been a gradual increase in sales and in the marine industry overall for the past couple of years,” he added.

Boating continues to be a top activity at Lake of the Ozarks, as the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s conversion study can confirm.

“The recent conversion study shows boating last year as the top activity at 36.6 percent, followed by shopping at 25.6 percent and fishing at 14.6 percent,” stated Tim Jacobsen, executive director for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau. “Having a private lake without the typical restrictions you see on a mandated Lake gives more freedom for development and thus more lake front establishments like marinas, restaurants and bars.”

The increase in boating is also shown in national trends, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). According to a NMMA news release, the U.S. recreational boating industry began to see the tide turn for new power boat sales with an estimated 10 percent increase in 2012.

Early projections indicate the industry will see additional increases in 2013 by as much as 5-10 percent, NMMA reported. This level of growth in 2013 will depend on a number of factors including continued improvement in economic conditions that impact recreational boating—namely consumer confidence and the housing market—and sustained increases in Americans’ participation in outdoor recreation.

“Improving economic conditions and what seems to be a resurgence in Americans’ love for the outdoors, helped fuel steady growth in new power boat sales in 2012,” said Thom Dammrich, president of NMMA, in the news release. “A 10 percent boost at retail in 2012 is significant as this is the first time since the recession we saw healthy growth across the powerboat market, which will create momentum in 2013.”

Another factor, and new trend, that’s contributing to new boat sales is the creation of innovative, more versatile and accessible boats that appeal to a variety of interests and budgets and fall within the 15-26 foot range, NMMA reported. These smaller boats, those less than 27 feet, which make up 96 percent of the 12.4 million registered boats in the U.S. and are leading the industry out of the recession. Boats that fall into this category include aluminum all-purpose boats and pontoons, fiberglass bowriders, fish and ski boats, and jet boats, the NMMA news release stated.

“One of the most significant trends we’re seeing in boat manufacturing is the versatile boat—one that can pull tubers or wakeboarders, can be used for fishing outings, relaxing with family or entertaining friends,” said Dammrich in the news release. “After a decade of decline, Americans are participating in outdoor recreation in growing numbers, and as they look for ways to spend time outdoors, boat manufacturers are taking cue, producing innovative boats that offer an all-encompassing entry to the boating lifestyle at a variety of price points.”

In 2011, boating participation increased ten percent to 83 million – the largest proportion of adults (34.8 percent) who went boating since 1997(35.8 percent), NMMA reported.

In addition, the Outdoor Industry Association reported that more than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority in their daily lives – and they prove it with their wallets. The outdoor recreation economy generates $646 billion in direct consumer spending annually, the news release stated. Also, a recent study by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported that participation in fishing is up 11 percent in the past five years, and hunting participation is up 9 percent in the past five years, according to the news release.

Another important factor that can contribute to the Lake Area’s boating industry this year is the passing of the temporary boating certification law, which went into effect Aug. 28 in Missouri. During a bill signing session July 12, Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 719 to allow boat dealers and watercraft rental companies to issue temporary safe boating cards to out-of- state residents.

Atikinson said even though it was hard to tell the immediate effects of this new law since it came into effect near the end of last year’s boating season, he is certain it will only benefit the marine industry this year.

“In our membership, we have had businesses that do rentals and were losing a tremendous amount of business. Now, visitors can come down and rent a boat, try it out and grow their interest from there. They may buy a boat, then a condo or home,” he said. “It is terribly important for them to come down here and experience boating at the Lake and don’t get turned away. I feel this will make a big difference this season.”

Jacobsen agrees with Atkinson’s sentiment and eventhough it is early to predict how the summer season’s boating industry will be affected believes it can only benefit it.

“It would be my assumption that a person purchasing a boat will not hesitate because of a safety class. As for rentals it could very well effect the industry if visitors don’t take the required educational course prior to coming to the Lake. It is just as important that the boat sales and rental companies are aware of this new law and can educate the buyers and renters as well,” he said. “The Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau has placed a banner ad on the home page of labeled ‘Missouri Watercraft Laws;’ it states ‘All boaters born after 1983 must have a boater safety card.’ The banner takes you to a page with link where you can take the required boater education course and learn more about boating safety. Any business can also take this banner ad and place it on their website to educate their customers.”

Visitors can learn about this information through the link and from marine dealers at the upcoming LOMDA Overland Park Boat Show. Atkinson said the show contain all Lake Area exhibitors who showcase everything from the latest 2013 cruisers, runabouts, performance boats, tritoons, ski boats, personal watercraft, docks, lifts and all boating accessories, as well as real estate in the Lake Area.

He sees that many of the visitors are interested in a variety of vessels and equipment, however, PWC (personal watercraft) still remains a top seller at the Lake.

“They have always been popular and still are. We have also seen a lot of pontoons selling in recent years. They are a very practical boat and many families and visitors utilize that boat on the Lake,” he said. “However, at the Overland Park Boat show the majority of visitors are from the Johnson County area but are serious about investing in a boat for visiting the Lake Area. There is a little bit of everything and visitors can shop all under one roof.”

Atkinson said in addition to look at pontoons, PWCs, cruisers and yachts, visitors can also register for a variety of giveaways at individual exhibitor’s booths, plus a large drawing for a $1,000 gas card for their Lake Area excursion. He said they do the drawing for one winner and he or she can pick the marina or business they can receive the gasoline from while at the Lake.

The Overland Park Boat Show is a highly beneficial marketing tool for visitors to the Lake Area, as is many other recreational exhibitions held around the region during the winter months.

“So many boaters, campers and fisherman use the various shows to review the newest products all in one place with indoor activities, entertainment and food & beverage. Again, the marinas could give you a better indication but there are purchases directly at these shows and many following,” Jacobsen said. “Attending a show in a booth capacity as the CVB does to distribute Lake Area information is much more affordable than bulk exhibitors that bring numerous boats and staff. It is very expensive to transport the boats, lodge and feed the staff so the shows have to be successful in order for the shows to continue. People still want to see the boats before they buy, but the internet has assisted the potential buyers in research that when they do attend a show they are more prepared to buy.”

“The LOMDA show is all Lake of the Ozarks Marinas as opposed to the other shows, which will have several marinas representing numerous geographic areas. We see more potential buyers at the LOMDA show and the larger shows in St. Louis and Kansas City. Other areas where we attend shows, like Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa we tend to see more potential visitors than potential buyers,” he added.

The LOMDA Overland Park is held from 5-9 p.m. Jan. 24, noon-10 p.m., Jan. 25, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 27.

Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and under. There is $1 off each adult paid admission that is donated to Kids’ Harbor Child Advocacy Center.

For more information about the LOMDA Overland Park Boat Show, visit


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