UK yachting market aims for growth


Between 2018 and 2023, the turnover of the yachting industry in Great Britain experienced a gradual increase of 0.9% annually. Notably, the superyacht sector saw a notable rise in orders during this period. Despite challenges such as Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, pre-Covid profits seem to be attainable once again.

In 2023, the Great Britain yachting industry reached an estimated value of £1.2 billion, marking a growth of 3.4% from the previous year. This figure encompasses revenue generated from both general pleasure craft and yacht construction. However, when factoring in additional components such as accessories and services, the sector’s total revenue was estimated at £3.4 billion in 2021, according to British Marine‘s June report.

2018-2023: a steady growth

Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, the yachting market saw steady growth between 2018 and early 2023, with an average annual increase of 0.9%. Sales to brokers surged, though racing boats faced hurdles due to suspended regattas. High-tech cruising yachts, particularly British-made ones, emerged as strong market drivers, outpacing growth in both manufacturing and the overall economy.

The picture of 2022

The trends observed during the Covid period continued to influence the yachting industry in 2022. The use of boats as a means to vacation while maintaining social distancing became a popular choice during holiday periods. In regions like Hampshire, there’s a preference for family cruising yachts under 40 feet, while in other areas, demand for larger yachts exceeding 60 feet has risen. These larger vessels come with significant costs for purchase and upkeep, attracting families from higher social classes who comprise about 1/5 of the population. As their spending power increases, so does demand. Furthermore, some buyers in this category utilize yachts not just for leisure but also for remote work, further driving demand.

Superyachts, a winning sector

The UK possesses significant capabilities in the superyacht sector, spanning from luxury yacht creation and refurbishment to innovative equipment development and trustworthy services. Supported by Superyacht UK, an organization comprising around 260 companies, this segment demonstrates promising order prospects by the end of 2022, with pre-Covid profits back within reach. Despite challenges such as inflation and rising energy costs, British shipyards remain relatively unaffected. The loss of orders from the Russian market, due to the war in Ukraine, had limited impact amidst growing demand.

The challenge for British companies lies in understanding how international economic pressures may

influence customer behavior and preparing accordingly. To meet increasing demands, companies are expanding recruitment efforts and enhancing facilities to provide innovative quality services. Sustainability is a key focus, with companies urged to develop boats with lower environmental impacts through innovative engines and alternative fuels. Failure to address this challenge could adversely affect the industry, highlighting the need for a genuine commitment to environmental sustainability, an aspect increasingly emphasized in the trade fair sector.

Trade fairs and events

Among the boating shows in the UK that most emphasise the topic is The South Coast & Green Tech Boat Show 2023, which will be held at Ocean Village Marina, in Southampton, Hampshire, between 21 and 23 April, 2023.

The fifty-fourth Southampton International Boat Show, on the other hand, will be held between 15 and 24 September, 2023, at Mayflower Park, also in Southampton.

Brexit and yachting
Brexit, though less prominent compared to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, still impacts daily operations for companies and individuals. Changes in Value Added Tax (VAT) due to Brexit and Covid-related travel restrictions have led UK buyers to prefer purchasing yachts domestically, boosting the domestic market. Despite agreements with the EU, uncertainties persist regarding vessel origin and pre-Brexit VAT status. Currently, UK companies without EU establishments can register for VAT in any EU member state to import goods, but they require an indirect representative. Without this representative, British firms must seek alternative solutions. For UK buyers, there’s the option to purchase and use VAT-free vessels in the EU27, with additional information available from recreational boating associations.

An association with over 1500 members

Among the associations dedicated to boating in the UK, an important role is played by British Marine, which comprises more than 1,500 members from companies dedicated to building or marketing boats, running marinas, and making engines and accessories.

The aims of British Marine include:

·      promote the marine industry in general and, specifically, products and services of member companies to give them visibility both in the UK and abroad;

·      get in touch with governments, bodies and agencies;

·      conducting research on the UK and international boating markets;

·      provide members with technical, regulatory, and production information and advice;

·      provide assistance and advice on environmental regulations, training, and staff recruitment;

·      advise and represent in legal and financial matters.